Implementing the sterile insect technique with RNA interference – a review

Michael Darrington, Tamas Dalmay, Neil I. Morrison, Tracey Chapman (Lead Author)

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RNA interference (RNAi) of insect pests is reviewed and its potential for implementing Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)-related control is considered. The molecular mechanisms that support RNAi in pest species are reviewed in detail, drawing on literature from a range of species including Drosophila melanogaster and Homo sapiens. The underlying genes that enable RNAi are generally conserved across taxa, although variance exists in both their form and function. RNAi represents a plausible, non-GM system for targeting populations of insects for control purposes, if RNA interference (RNAi) effector molecules can be delivered environmentally (eRNAi). We consider studies of eRNAi from across several insect orders and review to what extent taxonomy, genetics and differing methods of double stranded (ds)RNA synthesis and delivery can influence the efficiency of gene knockdown. Several factors, including the secondary structure of the target mRNA and the specific nucleotide sequence of dsRNA effector molecules, can affect the potency of eRNAi. However, taxonomic relationships between insects cannot be used to reliably forecast the efficiency of an eRNAi response. The mechanisms by which insects acquire dsRNA from their environment require further research, but the evidence to date suggests that endocytosis and transport channels both play key roles. Delivery of RNA molecules packaged in intermediary carriers such as bacteria or nanoparticles may facilitate their entry into and through the gut, and enable the evasion of host defense systems, such as toxic pH, that would otherwise attenuate the potential for RNAi.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155–175
Number of pages21
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Insect control
  • environmental RNAi
  • sterile insect technique
  • non-GM pest control
  • double-stranded RNA

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