RNA interference (RNAi) is a specific post-transcriptional gene silencing pathway found in many
eukaryotes, including insects. It was first discovered in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans by
Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello. This discovery earned them the Nobel Prize in Physiology and
Medicine in 2006, illustrating its wide scientific impact.
During the first RNAi decade, scientists recognized the potential applications of this mechanism in
many research areas, among them crop protection. The high specificity of this system, makes it an
attractive alternative to solve the non-target effect problem and provide a safe pesticide. Although
some promising results demonstrating the use of RNAi in crop protection have already been
reported, important challenges, such as the variable efficiency in different insects, should be
addressed before RNAi can be employed as a control strategy against a broad range of pest
insects. Possible causal factors of variability are, degradation of dsRNA in the insect body and the
efficiency of dsRNA delivery and uptake systems. This project has 2 main objectives: (1) develop
new dsRNA delivery systems to overcome these limitations and (2) to investigate the optimal
target gene and dsRNA construct design, that will improve the efficiency of the RNAi response.
More knowledge on these topics and especially a more efficient delivery system of dsRNA will lead
to new and improved techniques of RNAi-based pest.