Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Subba Reddy Palli


RNA interference (RNAi) is a useful reverse genetics tool for investigation of gene function as well as for practical applications in many fields including medicine and agriculture. Due to the variability in RNAi efficiency, RNAi-based methods are currently being developed for controlling only coleopteran insects which are known to be amenable to RNAi. The first chapter of my thesis includes findings from research to investigate what are the factors that make coleopteran insects relatively more efficient in RNAi. I used Colorado potato beetle (CPB), Leptinotarsa decemlineata and its cell line (Lepd-SL1) as study models to identify genes that play key roles in RNAi pathway. Five genes including Argonaute-1 (microRNA Argonaute) and Aubergine (PiwiRNA Argonaute) were identified as those required for siRNA (short interfering RNA) RNAi pathway. I also found that RNAi is completely blocked in StaufenC knockdown cells. StaufenC belongs to dsRNA binding protein family and binds to dsRNA as shown by gel mobility shift and the pull-down assays. Interestingly, I also found that StaufenC is downregulated in RNAi resistant cells and StaufenC homologous sequences are present in only coleopteran insects where RNAi works efficiently. These data suggest that StaufenC is a major contributor to efficient RNAi in coleopteran insects and is a potential target for RNAi resistance. The second part of my research is to understand the mechanisms of RNAi in those insects refractory to RNAi. The barriers for successful RNAi include the presence of double-stranded ribonucleases (dsRNase) in the lumen and hemolymph that could potentially digest double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and the variability in the transport of dsRNA into and within the cells. Recent work in our laboratory showed that the dsRNAs are transported into lepidopteran cells, but they are not processed into siRNAs because they are trapped in acidic bodies. I focused on identification of these acidic bodies in which dsRNAs accumulate in Spodoptera frugiperda Sf9 cells. These studies showed that entrapment of internalized dsRNA in endosomes is one of the major factors contributing to inefficient RNAi. Overall, my research revealed important players involved in successful and unsuccessful RNAi in insects.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)