RNA interference (RNAi), the sequence-specific suppression of gene expression, offers great opportunities for insect science, especially to analyze gene function, manage pest populations, and reduce disease pathogens. The accumulating body of literature on insect RNAi has revealed that the efficiency of RNAi varies between different species, the mode of RNAi delivery, and the genes being targeted. There is also variation in the duration of transcript suppression. At present, we have a limited capacity to predict the ideal experimental strategy for RNAi of a particular gene/insect because of our incomplete understanding of whether and how the RNAi signal is amplified and spread among insect cells. Consequently, development of the optimal RNAi protocols is a highly empirical process. This limitation can be relieved by systematic analysis of the molecular physiological basis of RNAi mechanisms in insects. An enhanced conceptual understanding of RNAi function in insects will facilitate the application of RNAi for dissection of gene function, and to fast-track the application of RNAi to both control pests and develop effective methods to protect beneficial insects and non-insect arthropods, particularly the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and cultured Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) from viral and parasitic diseases.
Keywords: Antiviral therapy; Insect pest control; RNA interference; Systemic RNAi; dsRNA; siRNA.
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