Exploiting somatic piRNAs in Bemisia tabaci enables novel gene silencing through RNA feeding

Mosharrof Mondal, Judith K. Brown, Alex Flynt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


RNAi promises to reshape pest control by being nontoxic, biodegradable, and species specific. However, due to the plastic nature of RNAi, there is a significant variability in responses. In this study, we investigate small RNA pathways and processing of ingested RNAi trigger molecules in a hemipteran plant pest, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci. Unlike Drosophila, where the paradigm for insect RNAi technology was established, whitefly has abundant somatic piwi-associated RNAs (piRNAs). Long regarded as germline restricted, piRNAs are common in the soma of many invertebrates. We sought to exploit this for a novel gene silencing approach. The main principle of piRNA biogenesis is the recruitment of target RNA fragments into the pathway. As such, we designed synthetic RNAs to possess complementarity to the loci we annotated. Following feeding of these exogenous piRNA triggers knockdown as effective as conventional siRNA-only approaches was observed. These results demonstrate a new approach for RNAi technology that could be applicable to dsRNA-recalcitrant pest species and could be fundamental to realizing insecticidal RNAi against pests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere202000731
JournalLife Science Alliance
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Plant Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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