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Control of coleopteran insect pests through RNA interference


Commercial biotechnology solutions for controlling lepidopteran and coleopteran insect pests on crops depend on the expression of Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal proteins1,2, most of which permeabilize the membranes of gut epithelial cells of susceptible insects3. However, insect control strategies involving a different mode of action would be valuable for managing the emergence of insect resistance. Toward this end, we demonstrate that ingestion of double-stranded (ds)RNAs supplied in an artificial diet triggers RNA interference in several coleopteran species, most notably the western corn rootworm (WCR) Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte. This may result in larval stunting and mortality. Transgenic corn plants engineered to express WCR dsRNAs show a significant reduction in WCR feeding damage in a growth chamber assay, suggesting that the RNAi pathway can be exploited to control insect pests via in planta expression of a dsRNA.

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Figure 1: Suppression of target mRNA in WCR.
Figure 2: F1 plants expressing a V-ATPase A dsRNA are protected from WCR feeding damage.
Figure 3: Northern blot analysis of large and small RNAs produced by F1 plants expressing the V-ATPase A dsRNA transcript.


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We are grateful to Tom Adams, Claire CaJacob and Steve Padgette for their support and helpful discussions; Wendy Maddelein and Steffy Denorme for molecular cloning support and dsRNA preparations; David Kovalic, Wei Wu, Marc Logghe and Irene Nooren for bioinformatics support; Robin Camp and Shubha Subbarao for assistance with plant feeding assays; Tim Coombe, Barbara Wiggins, Heidi Windler and Rich Yingling for corn transformation, propagation and analysis.

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Correspondence to James Roberts.

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The following authors were employed by Monsanto while engaged in the research project described in this publication: J.A.B., W.C., G.R.H., T.M., M.P., J.R. and T.V.; and the following authors were employed by Devgen: T.B., P.F. and G.P.

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Baum, J., Bogaert, T., Clinton, W. et al. Control of coleopteran insect pests through RNA interference. Nat Biotechnol 25, 1322–1326 (2007).

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