Genome-wide Analysis of Alternative Gene Splicing Associated with Virulence in the Brown Planthopper Nilaparvata lugens (Hemiptera: Delphacidae)

J Econ Entomol. 2021 Sep 27;toab186. doi: 10.1093/jee/toab186. Online ahead of print.


Alternative splicing of protein coding genes plays a profound role in phenotypic variation for many eukaryotic organisms. The development of high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics algorithms provides the possibility of genome-wide identification of alternative splicing events in eukaryotes. However, for the brown planthopper Nilaparvata lugens, a destructive pest of rice crops, whole-genome distribution of alternative splicing events and the role of alternative splicing in the phenotypic plasticity of virulence have not previously been estimated. Here, we developed an analysis pipeline to identify alternative splicing events in the genome of N. lugens. Differential expression analysis and functional annotation were performed on datasets related to different virulence phenotypes. In total, 27,880 alternative splicing events corresponding to 9,787 multi-exon genes were detected in N. lugens. Among them, specifically expressed alternative splicing transcripts in the virulent Mudgo population were enriched in metabolic process categories, while transcripts in the avirulent TN1 population were enriched in regulator activity categories. In addition, genes encoding odorant receptor, secreted saliva protein and xenobiotic metabolic P450 monooxygenase showed different splicing patterns between Mudgo population and TN1 population. Host change experiment also revealed that an isoform of a P450 gene could be specially induced by the stimulation of resistant rice variety Mudgo. This research pioneered a genome-wide study of alternative gene splicing in the rice brown planthopper. Differences in alternative splicing between virulent and avirulent populations indicated that alternative splicing might play an important role in the formation of virulence phenotypes in N. lugens.

Keywords: Nilaparvata lugens; RNA-seq; alternative splicing; expression pattern; virulence.