Entomology, Department of




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Journal of Economic Entomology, 112(3), 2019, 1354–1364 doi: 10.1093/jee/toz008


The southern corn rootworm, Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi Barber (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), was exposed over multiple generations to vacuolar (v)ATPase-A double-stranded (ds)RNA, first as adults and later, as neonate larvae. During adult selection, high mortality and lower fecundity were observed in the RNAi-selected cages after beetles were exposed to sublethal dsRNA concentrations that varied between LC40 and LC75. During larval selection, a delay in adult emergence and effects on population growth parameters were observed after neonates were exposed to sublethal dsRNA concentrations that varied between LC50 and LC70. Some of the parameters measured for adult emergence such as time to reach maximum linear adult emergence, time elapsed before attaining linear emergence, termination point of the linear emergence, and total days of linear emergence increase, were significantly different between RNAi-selected and control colonies for at least one generation. Significant differences were also observed in population growth parameters such as growth rate, net reproductive rate, doubling time, and generation time. After seven generations of selection, there was no indication that resistance evolved. The sublethal effects caused by exposures of southern corn rootworm to dsRNAs can affect important life history traits and fitness especially through delays in adult emergence and reduction in population growth. Although changes in susceptibility did not occur, the observation of sublethal effects suggests important responses to potential selection pressure. Assuming resistance involves a recessive trait, random mating between susceptible and resistant individuals is an important factor that allows sustainable use of transgenic plants, and delays in adult emergence observed in our studies could potentially compromise this assumption.

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