Date of this Version
PLoS ONE 12(12): e0190208
RNA interference (RNAi) based approaches can potentially be used to control insect pests. These approaches may depend on the usage of microRNA (miRNA) or double stranded RNA (dsRNA) mediated gene knockdown, which likely involves proteins that regulate these pathways, such as Argonaute 1 (Ago1), Argonaute 2 (Ago2), Dicer 1 (Dcr1), Dicer 2 (Dcr2), and Drosha in insects. We previously performed functional characterization of Ago2 and Dcr2 of western corn rootworm (WCR), Diabrotica virgifera virgifera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and observed that knockdown of Ago2 and Dcr2 ameliorated the lethal effect induced by the dsRNA-mediated knockdown of an essential gene in WCR, thereby confirming the involvement of Ago2 and Dcr2 in the dsRNA pathway. In the current study, we identified and characterized additional members of the Argonaute and Dicer gene families, namely Ago1, Ago3, Aubergine, and Dcr1, in a previously developed WCR transcriptome. We also identified a Drosha homolog in the same transcriptome. We evaluated the impacts on WCR adult fitness associated with the dsRNA-mediated knockdown of Ago1, Ago2, Dcr1, Dcr2, and Drosha genes. Among these putative RNAi pathway genes, only the knockdown of Ago1 incurred significant fitness costs such as reduced survival and oviposition rate, as well as decreased egg viability. The present study, to our knowledge, represents the first report showing that Ago1 is critical to the survival of insect adults. Our findings suggest that Ago1 plays an essential role in broader life stages of an insect than previously thought. Importantly, since fitness costs were not observed, downregulation or loss of function of RNAi pathway genes such as Ago2 or Dcr2 may confer resistance to pest control measures that rely on the normal functions of these genes. However, the precise roles of these genes under field conditions (i.e., in the presence of possible viral pathogens) requires further investigation.