Next-Generation Insect-Resistant Plants: RNAi-Mediated Crop Protection

Trends Biotechnol. 2017 Sep;35(9):871-882. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2017.04.009. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Plant-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) shows great potential in crop protection. It relies on plants stably expressing double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) that target essential genes in pest insects. Practical application of this strategy is challenging because producing sufficient amounts of stable dsRNA in plants has proven to be difficult to achieve with conventional transgenesis. In addition, many insects do not respond to exogenously applied dsRNAs, either degrading them or failing to import them into the cytoplasm. We summarize recent progress in RNAi-mediated insect pest control and discuss factors determining its efficacy. Expressing dsRNA in chloroplasts overcomes many of the difficulties previously encountered. We also highlight remaining challenges and discuss the environmental and biosafety issues involved in the use of this technology in agriculture.

Keywords: RNA interference; RNase; chloroplast; double-stranded RNA; plastid transformation; transgenic plant.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloroplasts / genetics
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Crops, Agricultural* / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural* / growth & development
  • Insecta*
  • Pest Control, Biological / methods*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified* / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified* / growth & development
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Plant