Symbiont-mediated RNA interference in insects

Proc Biol Sci. 2016 Feb 24;283(1825):20160042. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0042.


RNA interference (RNAi) methods for insects are often limited by problems with double-stranded (ds) RNA delivery, which restricts reverse genetics studies and the development of RNAi-based biocides. We therefore delegated to insect symbiotic bacteria the task of: (i) constitutive dsRNA synthesis and (ii) trauma-free delivery. RNaseIII-deficient, dsRNA-expressing bacterial strains were created from the symbionts of two very diverse pest species: a long-lived blood-sucking bug, Rhodnius prolixus, and a short-lived globally invasive polyphagous agricultural pest, western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis). When ingested, the manipulated bacteria colonized the insects, successfully competed with the wild-type microflora, and sustainably mediated systemic knockdown phenotypes that were horizontally transmissible. This represents a significant advance in the ability to deliver RNAi, potentially to a large range of non-model insects.

Keywords: Chagas disease; RNA interference; biocide; insect; symbiotic bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Targeting / methods*
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics*
  • Rhodnius / genetics*
  • Rhodnius / microbiology
  • Rhodococcus / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Symbiosis
  • Thysanoptera / genetics*
  • Thysanoptera / microbiology


  • RNA, Double-Stranded