Issue Date: November 12, 2007
RNA Interference Targets Pests
The gene-silencing technique known as RNA interference (RNAi) is a potential new weapon for insect control, according to two reports. Plants can be genetically modified to produce double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) with sequences complementary to target genes in insects. When insects eat the dsRNA, it triggers the RNAi process in the insects. In one study, scientists at Monsanto, Chesterfield, Mo., and at Devgen, Ghent-Zwijnaarde, Belgium, created transgenic corn that produces dsRNA that targets genes in the western corn rootworm (Nat. Biotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nbt1359). In the other study, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, used RNAi to silence a gene for a cotton bollworm enzyme that helps the pest tolerate the polyphenol gossypol, a toxic metabolite produced by cotton (Nat. Biotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nbt1352). In both studies, RNAi stunted larval growth, a result suggesting it might be useful for controlling pests.
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