Desaturases are essentially required for unsaturated fatty acid (UFA) biosynthesis. We identified 10 genes encoding putative desaturases in the transcriptome database of the brown planthopper (BPH), Nilaparvata lugens. These include eight First Desaturase family genes, one cytochrome b5 fused desaturase gene (Nlug-Cytb5r) and one Sphingolipid Desaturase gene (Nlug-ifc). Transcript level profiling revealed significant variation in the expression patterns of these genes across tissues and developmental stages, which occur in a gene-specific manner. Interestingly, their expression was also modulated by the insect food source: the mRNA levels of Nlug-desatC and Nlug-Cytb5r were down-regulated, but the expression level of Nlug-desatA1-b and Nlug-desatA1-c were elevated in the BPH fed on the resistant rice variety Babawee as compared to the non-resistant variety Taichun Native 1 (TN1). Silencing Nlug-desatA1-b, Nlug-desatA1-c, or Nlug-Ifc reduced fatty acid composition and abundance in female BPH 1-d-old-adults compared to controls. Whereas, single knockdown of all ten desaturase genes significantly increased mortality of BPH nymphs compared with controls. Of the ten desaturase genes, knockdown of Nlug-desatA1-b and Nlug-desatA2 caused the highest mortality in BPH (91% and 97%, respectively). Our findings offer a base for expression and functional characterization of newly identified desaturase genes in BPH, and may contribute to RNA interference-based pest management strategies.
Keywords: Desaturase; Fatty acid metabolism; Function; Gene family; Nilaparvata lugens; Rice.