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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


© 2020, The Author(s).

Background:RNA interference (RNAi) regulates gene expression in most multicellular organisms through binding of small RNA effectors to target transcripts. Exploiting this process is a popular strategy for genetic manipulation and has applications that includes arthropod pest control. RNAi technologies are dependent on delivery method with the most convenient likely being feeding, which is effective in some animals while others are insensitive. The two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, is prime candidate for developing RNAi approaches due to frequent occurrence of conventional pesticide resistance. Using a sequencing-based approach, the fate of ingested RNAs was explored to identify features and conditions that affect small RNA biogenesis from external sources to better inform RNAi design.

Results: Biochemical and sequencing approaches in conjunction with extensive computational assessment were used to evaluate metabolism of ingested RNAs in T. urticae. This chelicerae arthropod shows only modest response to oral RNAi and has biogenesis pathways distinct from model organisms. Processing of synthetic and plant host RNAs ingested during feeding were evaluated to identify active substrates for spider mite RNAi pathways. Through cataloging characteristics of biochemically purified RNA from these sources, trans-acting small RNAs could be distinguished from degradation fragments and their origins documented.

Conclusions: Using a strategy that delineates small RNA processing, we found many transcripts have the potential to enter spider mite RNAi pathways, however, trans-acting RNAs appear very unstable and rare. This suggests potential RNAi pathway substrates from ingested materials are mostly degraded and infrequently converted into regulators of gene expression. Spider mites infest a variety of plants, and it would be maladaptive to generate diverse gene regulators from dietary RNAs. This study provides a framework for assessing RNAi technology in organisms where genetic and biochemical tools are absent and benefit rationale design of RNAi triggers for T. urticae.

Publication Title

BMC Genomics





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