RNA interference (RNAi) is a highly specific gene-silencing mechanism that can cause rapid insect mortality when essential genes are targeted. RNAi is being developed as a tool for integrated pest management of some crop pests. Here we focus on an aggressive forest pest that kills extensive tracts of pine forests, the southern pine beetle (SPB), Dendroctonus frontalis. We sought to identify reference genes for quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and validate RNAi responses in SPB by mortality and gene silencing analysis. Using an adult beetle feeding bioassay for oral ingestion of dsRNA, we measured the expression and demonstrated knockdown of target genes as well as insect mortality after ingestion of target genes. Our study validates reference genes for expression analyses and demonstrates highly effective RNAi responses in SPB, with RNAi response to some target dsRNAs causing 100% beetle mortality after ingestion.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 9, article no. 5640, p. 1-8.

© The Author(s) 2019

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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This work was supported by the University of Kentucky, the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Research and Education Center, and the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station under McIntire-Stennis 2351197000.

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This is publication number 18-08-070 from the Kentucky Agricultural Experimental Station and is published with the approval of the director.

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42072-6.

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