Identification and comparison of key RNA interference machinery from western corn rootworm, fall armyworm, and southern green stink bug.
RNA interference (RNAi)-based technology shows great potential for use in agriculture, particularly for management of costly insect pests. In the decade since the insecticidal effects of environmentally-introduced RNA were first reported, this treatment has been applied to several types of insect pests. Through the course of those efforts, it has become apparent that different insects exhibit a range of sensitivity to environmentally-introduced RNAs. The variation in responses across insect is not well-understood, with differences in the underlying RNAi mechanisms being one explanation. This study evaluates eight proteins among three agricultural pests whose responses to environmental RNAi are known to differ: western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera), fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), and southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula). These proteins have been identified in various organisms as centrally involved in facilitating the microRNA- and small interfering-RNA-mediated interference responses. Various bioinformatics tools, as well as gene expression profiling, were used to identify and evaluate putative homologues for characteristics that may contribute to the differing responses of these insects, such as the absence of critical functional domains within expressed sequences, the absence of entire gene sequences, or unusually low or undetectable expression of critical genes. Though many similarities were observed, the number of isoforms and expression levels of double-stranded RNA-binding and argonaute proteins varied across insect. Differences among key RNAi machinery genes of these three pests may impact the function of their RNAi pathways, and therefore, their respective responses to exogenous RNAs.