Southern pine beetle-specific RNA interference exhibits no effect on model nontarget insects

Hannah Hollowell, Lynne K. Rieske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The efficacy and high specificity of the RNA interference pathway has prompted its exploration as a potential molecular management tool for many insect pests, including the destructive southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis Zimmermann, in which gene knockdown and mortality via double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) have already been demonstrated in the laboratory. The nucleotide sequence of dsRNAs requires an exact match of at least 16 nucleotides with the targeted messenger RNA to trigger knockdown of that gene. This allows vital genes in a target pest to be silenced and mortality induced while reducing the probability of adverse effects in nontarget organisms. However, prior to utilization in forest ecosystems, demonstration of the specificity of dsRNAs through laboratory bioassays evaluating potential nontarget effects on model insects is required for proper risk assessment analyses. Consequently, we evaluated three SPB-specific dsRNAs for lethal effects, sublethal effects (larval growth rate, adult emergence or adult fecundity), and relative gene expression in three model nontarget insects representing key functional guilds, including a predator, herbivore, and pollinator. The SPB-specific dsRNAs had no effect on survival of our nontarget insects. Additionally, no sublethal effects were found and the gene expression analyses corroborated bioinformatic analyses in finding no gene knockdown. Our findings support the high specificity of RNAi technology and provide support for its development and deployment for protection of conifer forests against SPB with minimal nontarget concerns.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pest Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by USDA APHIS AP20PPQST00C06-PE-SA1-21, the University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station under McIntire-Stennis 2352657000, and is published with the approval of the director.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Dendroctonus frontalis
  • Hazard analysis
  • RNA interference
  • Specificity
  • dsRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Southern pine beetle-specific RNA interference exhibits no effect on model nontarget insects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this