Knock down of whitefly gut gene expression and mortality by orally delivered gut gene-specific dsRNAs

Meenal Vyas, Amir Raza, Muhammad Yousaf Ali, Muhammad Aleem Ashraf, Shahid Mansoor, Ahmad Ali Shahid, Judith K. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Control of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Genn.) agricultural pest and plant virus vector relies on the use of chemical insecticides. RNA-interference (RNAi) is a homology-dependent innate immune response in eukaryotes, including insects, which results in degradation of the corresponding transcript following its recognition by a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that shares 100% sequence homology. In this study, six whitefly 'gut' genes were selected from an in silico-annotated transcriptome library constructed from the whitefly alimentary canal or 'gut' of the B biotype of B. tabaci, and tested for knock down efficacy, post-ingestion of dsRNAs that share 100% sequence homology to each respective gene target. Candidate genes were: Acetylcholine receptor subunit α, Alpha glucosidase 1, Aquaporin 1, Heat shock protein 70, Trehalase1, and Trehalose transporter1. The efficacy of RNAi knock down was further tested in a gene-specific functional bioassay, and mortality was recorded in 24 hr intervals, six days, post-treatment. Based on qPCR analysis, all six genes tested showed significantly reduced gene expression. Moderate-to-high whitefly mortality was associated with the down-regulation of osmoregulation, sugar metabolism and sugar transport-associated genes, demonstrating that whitefly survivability was linked with RNAi results. Silenced Acetylcholine receptor subunit α and Heat shock protein 70 genes showed an initial low whitefly mortality, however, following insecticide or high temperature treatments, respectively, significantly increased knockdown efficacy and death was observed, indicating enhanced post-knockdown sensitivity perhaps related to systemic silencing. The oral delivery of gut-specific dsRNAs, when combined with qPCR analysis of gene expression and a corresponding gene-specific bioassay that relates knockdown and mortality, offers a viable approach for functional genomics analysis and the discovery of prospective dsRNA biopesticide targets. The approach can be applied to functional genomics analyses to facilitate, species-specific dsRNA-mediated control of other non-model hemipterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0168921
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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