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RNAi-Mediated Knockdown of Transcription Factor E93 in Nymphs of the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) Inhibits Adult Morphogenesis and Results in Supernumerary Juvenile Stages

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Postembryonic development of insects is coordinated by juvenile hormone (JH) together with ecdysteroids. Whereas the JH early response gene krüppel-homolog 1 (Kr-h1) plays a crucial role in the maintenance of juvenile characteristics during consecutive larval stages, the ecdysteroid-inducible early gene E93 appears to be a key factor promoting metamorphosis and adult morphogenesis. Here, we report on the developmental and molecular consequences of an RNAi-mediated knockdown of SgE93 in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, a hemimetabolan species. Our experimental data show that injection of gregarious locust nymphs with a double-stranded RNA construct targeting the SgE93 transcript inhibited the process of metamorphosis and instead led to supernumerary nymphal stages. These supernumerary nymphal instars still displayed juvenile morphological features, such as a nymphal color scheme and body shape, while they reached the physical body size of the adult locusts, or even surpassed it after the next supernumerary molt. Interestingly, when compared to control locusts, the total duration of the fifth and normally final nymphal (N5) stage was shorter than normal. This appeared to correspond with temporal and quantitative changes in hemolymph ecdysteroid levels, as well as with altered expression of the rate-limiting Halloween gene, Spook (SgSpo). In addition, the levels of the ecdysone receptor (SgEcR) and retinoïd X receptor (SgRXR) transcripts were altered, indicating that silencing SgE93 affects both ecdysteroid synthesis and signaling. Upon knockdown of SgE93, a very potent upregulation of the SgKr-h1 transcript levels was observed in both head and fat body, while no significant changes were detected in the transcript levels of SgJHAMT and SgCYP15A1, the enzymes that catalyze the two final steps in JH biosynthesis. Moreover, the process of molting was disturbed in these supernumerary nymphs. While attempting ecdysis to the next stage, 50% of the N6 and all N7 nymphal instars eventually died. S. gregaria is a very harmful, swarm-forming pest species that destroys crops and threatens food security in many of the world's poorest countries. We believe that a better knowledge of the mechanisms of postembryonic development may contribute to the discovery of novel, more selective and sustainable strategies for controlling gregarious locust populations. In this context, identification of molecular target candidates that are capable of significantly reducing the fitness of this devastating swarming pest will be of crucial importance.
Journal: International Journal of Molecular Sciences
ISSN: 1422-0067
Issue: 20
Volume: 21
Publication year:2020
BOF-publication weight:1
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Government, Higher Education