The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Genn.) is a pest and vector of plant viruses to crop and ornamental plants worldwide. Using RNA interference (RNAi) to down regulate whitefly genes by expressing their homologous double stranded RNAs in plants has great potential for management of whiteflies to reduce plant virus disease spread. Using a Tobacco rattle virus-derived plasmid for in planta transient expression of double stranded RNA (dsRNA) homologous to the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and ecdysone receptor (EcR) genes of B. tabaci, resulted in significant adult whitefly mortality. Nicotiana tabacum L. plants expressing dsRNA homologous to B. tabaci AChE and EcR were constructed by fusing sequences derived from both genes. Mortality of adult whiteflies exposed to dsRNA by feeding on N. tabacum plants, compared to non-dsRNA expressing plants, recorded at 24-hr intervals post-ingestion for three days, was >90% and 10%, respectively. Analysis of gene expression by real time quantitative PCR indicated that whitefly mortality was attributable to the down-regulation of both target genes by RNAi. Results indicated that knock down of whitefly genes involved in neuronal transmission and transcriptional activation of developmental genes, has potential as a bio-pesticide to reduce whitefly population size and thereby decrease virus spread.
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