Silencing of Aphid Genes by dsRNA Feeding from Plants
RNA interference (RNAi) is a valuable reverse genetics tool to study gene function in various organisms, including hemipteran insects such as aphids. Previous work has shown that RNAi-mediated knockdown of pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) genes can be achieved through direct injection of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or small-interfering RNAs (siRNA) into the pea aphid hemolymph or by feeding these insects on artificial diets containing the small RNAs. In this study, we have developed the plant-mediated RNAi technology for aphids to allow for gene silencing in the aphid natural environment and minimize handling of these insects during experiments. The green peach aphid M. persicae was selected because it has a broad plant host range that includes the model plants Nicotiana benthamiana and Arabidopsis thaliana for which transgenic materials can relatively quickly be generated. We targeted M. persicae Rack1, which is predominantly expressed in the gut, and M. persicae C002 (MpC002), which is predominantly expressed in the salivary glands. The aphids were fed on N. benthamiana leaf disks transiently producing dsRNA corresponding to these genes and on A. thaliana plants stably producing the dsRNAs. MpC002 and Rack-1 expression were knocked down by up to 60% on transgenic N. benthamiana and A. thaliana. Moreover, silenced M. persicae produced less progeny consistent with these genes having essential functions. Similar levels of gene silencing were achieved in our plant-mediated RNAi approach and published silencing methods for aphids. Furthermore, the N. benthamiana leaf disk assay can be developed into a screen to assess which genes are essential for aphid survival on plants. Our results also demonstrate the feasibility of the plant-mediated RNAi approach for aphid control.