Effective target genes for RNA interference-based management of the cabbage stem flea beetle

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The cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB, Psylliodes chrysocephala ) is a key pest of oilseed rape. The ban on neonicotinoids in the European Union due to environmental concerns and the emergence of pyrethroid-resistant populations have made the control of CSFB extremely challenging. In search of a solution, we have recently shown that RNA interference (RNAi) has potential in the management of CSFB. However, the previously tested target genes for RNAi-mediated pest control (subsequently called target genes ) exhibited moderate and slow-acting lethal effects. In this study, 27 double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) were orally delivered to identify highly effective target genes in CSFB adults by leveraging the findings of a genome-wide RNAi screen in Tribolium castaneum . Our screen using 500 ng of dsRNA identified 10 moderately effective (> 50% mortality) and 4 highly effective target genes (100% mortality in 8-13 days). The latter mainly included proteasome subunits. RT-qPCR experiments confirmed target gene silencing and dose-response studies revealed LD 50 values as low as ∼20 ng in 14 days following a single exposure to dsRNA. Four highly effective dsRNAs also inhibited leaf damage (up to ∼75%) and one affected locomotion. The sequences of promising target genes were subjected to in silico target prediction in non-target organisms, e.g., beneficials such as honeybees, to design environmentally friendly dsRNAs. Overall, the study provides valuable insights for the development of dsRNA-based insecticides against CSFB.

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