The Interplay Between Viruses and RNAi Pathways in Insects

Annu Rev Entomol. 2021 Jan 7:66:61-79. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-033020-090410.


As an overarching immune mechanism, RNA interference (RNAi) displays pathogen specificity and memory via different pathways. The small interfering RNA (siRNA) pathway is the primary antiviral defense mechanism against RNA viruses of insects and plays a lesser role in defense against DNA viruses. Reflecting the pivotal role of the siRNA pathway in virus selection, different virus families have independently evolved unique strategies to counter this host response, including protein-mediated, decoy RNA-based, and microRNA-based strategies. In this review, we outline the interplay between insect viruses and the different pathways of the RNAi antiviral response; describe practical application of these interactions for improved expression systems and for pest and disease management; and highlight research avenues for advancement of the field.

Keywords: RNAi pathways; antiviral immunity; endogenous viral elements; viral suppressors of RNAi.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Insect Viruses / physiology*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / immunology
  • Insecta / virology*
  • RNA Interference*