Supply of exogenous dsRNA (exo-dsRNA), either by injection or by feeding, is a fast and powerful alternative to classical knockout studies. The biotechnical potential of feeding techniques is evident from the numerous studies focusing on oral administration of dsRNA to control pests and viral infection in crops/animal farming. We aimed to dissect the direct and indirect effects of exo-dsRNA feeding on the endogenous short interfering RNA (endo-siRNA) populations of the free-living ciliate Paramecium. We introduced dsRNA fragments against Dicer1 (DCR1), involved in RNA interference (RNAi) against exo- and few endo-siRNAs, and an RNAi unrelated gene, ND169. Any feeding, even the control dsRNA, diminishes genome wide the accumulation of endo-siRNAs and mRNAs. This cannot be explained by direct off-target effects and suggests mechanistic overlaps of the exo- and endo-RNAi mechanisms. Nevertheless, we observe a stronger down-regulation of mRNAs in DCR1 feeding compared with ND169 knockdown. This is likely due to the direct involvement of DCR1 in endo-siRNA accumulation. We further observed a cis-regulatory effect on mRNAs that overlap with phased endo-siRNAs. This interference of exo-dsRNA with endo-siRNAs warrants further investigations into secondary effects in target species/consumers, risk assessment of dsRNA feeding applications, and environmental pollution with dsRNA.
Keywords: dsRNA feeding; environmental RNAi; off-target; siRNA.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Kazusa DNA Research Institute.