The fast-growing human population requires the development of new agricultural technologies to meet consumers´ demand, while minimizing environmental impacts. Insect pests are one of the main causes for losses in agriculture production, and current control technologies based on pesticide application or the use of transgenic crops expressing Bacillus thuringiensis toxin proteins are facing efficacy challenges. Novel approaches to control pests are urgently necessary. RNA interference (RNAi) is a gene silencing mechanism triggered by providing double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), that when ingested into insects can lead to death or affect the viability of the target pest. Transgenic plants expressing dsRNA version of insect specific target genes are the new generation of resistant plants. However, the RNAi mechanism is not conserved among insect orders, and its elucidation is the key to develop commercial RNAi crops. In this chapter, we review the core RNAi pathway in insects and the dsRNA uptake, amplification, and spread of systemic silencing signals in some key insect species. We also highlight some of the experimental steps before developing an insect-pest-resistant “RNAi plant”. Lastly, we review some of the most recent development studies to control agricultural insect pests by RNAi transgenic plants.
Part of the book: RNA Interference