Gene silencing in Tribolium castaneum as a tool for the targeted identification of candidate RNAi targets in crop pests

Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 1;8(1):2061. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20416-y.


RNAi shows potential as an agricultural technology for insect control, yet, a relatively low number of robust lethal RNAi targets have been demonstrated to control insects of agricultural interest. In the current study, a selection of lethal RNAi target genes from the iBeetle (Tribolium castaneum) screen were used to demonstrate efficacy of orthologous targets in the economically important coleopteran pests Diabrotica virgifera virgifera and Meligethes aeneus. Transcript orthologs of 50 selected genes were analyzed in D. v. virgifera diet-based RNAi bioassays; 21 of these RNAi targets showed mortality and 36 showed growth inhibition. Low dose injection- and diet-based dsRNA assays in T. castaneum and D. v. virgifera, respectively, enabled the identification of the four highly potent RNAi target genes: Rop, dre4, ncm, and RpII140. Maize was genetically engineered to express dsRNA directed against these prioritized candidate target genes. T0 plants expressing Rop, dre4, or RpII140 RNA hairpins showed protection from D. v. virgifera larval feeding damage. dsRNA targeting Rop, dre4, ncm, and RpII140 in M. aeneus also caused high levels of mortality both by injection and feeding. In summary, high throughput systems for model organisms can be successfully used to identify potent RNA targets for difficult-to-work with agricultural insect pests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Pest Control, Biological / methods*
  • Transgenes*
  • Tribolium / genetics*
  • Tribolium / pathogenicity
  • Zea mays / genetics
  • Zea mays / parasitology


  • Insect Proteins
  • MicroRNAs