Many phloem-feeding insects are considered severe pests of agriculture and are controlled mainly by chemical insecticides. Continued extensive use of these inputs is environmentally undesirable, and also leads to the development of insecticide resistance. Here, we used a plant-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) approach, to develop a new control strategy for phloem-feeding insects. The approach aims to silence “key” detoxification genes, involved in the insect's ability to neutralize defensive and toxic plant chemistry. We targeted a glutathione S-transferase (GST) gene, BtGSTs5, in the phloem-feeding whitefly Bemisia tabaci, a devastating global agricultural pest. We report three major findings. First, significant down regulation of the BtGSTs5 gene was obtained in the gut of B. tabaci when the insects were fed on Arabidopsis thaliana transgenic plants expressing dsRNA against BtGSTs5 under a phloem-specific promoter. This brings evidence that phloem-feeding insects can be efficiently targeted by plant-mediated RNAi. Second, in-silico and in-vitro analyses indicated that the BtGSTs5 enzyme can accept as substrates, hydrolyzed aliphatic- and indolic-glucosinolates, and produce their corresponding detoxified conjugates. Third, performance assays suggested that the BtGSTs5 gene silencing prolongs the developmental period of B. tabaci nymphs. Taken together, these findings suggest that BtGSTs5 is likely to play an important role in enabling B. tabaci to successfully feed on glucosinolate-producing plants. Targeting the gene by RNAi in Brassicaceae cropping systems, will likely not eliminate the pest populations from the fields but will significantly reduce their success over the growing season, support prominent activity of natural enemies, eventually allowing the establishment of stable and sustainable agroecosystem.
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd
- Bemisia tabaci
- Environmentally-friendly pest control
- Glutathion S-Transferase
- Phloem-feeding insects
- Plant-mediated RNAi