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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr Elaine Fitches

Powell, Michelle, Pyati, Prashant, Cao, Min, Bell, Howard, Gatehouse, John A. & Fitches, Elaine (2017). Insecticidal effects of dsRNA targeting the Diap1 gene in dipteran pests. Scientific Reports 7(1): 15147.

Author(s) from Durham


The Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) gene Diap1 encodes a protein referred to as DIAP1 (DrosophilaInhibitor of Apoptosis Protein 1) that acts to supress apoptosis in “normal” cells in the fly. In this study we investigate the use of RNA interference (RNAi) to control two dipteran pests, Musca domestica and Delia radicum, by disrupting the control of apoptosis. Larval injections of 125–500 ng of Diap1 dsRNA resulted in dose-dependent mortality which was shown to be attributable to down-regulation of target mRNA. Insects injected with Diap1 dsRNA have approx. 1.5-2-fold higher levels of caspase activity than controls 24 hours post injection, providing biochemical evidence that inhibition of apoptotic activity by the Diap1 gene product has been decreased. By contrast adults were insensitive to injected dsRNA. Oral delivery failed to induce RNAi effects and we suggest this is attributable to degradation of ingested dsRNA by intra and extracellular RNAses. Non-target effects were demonstrated via mortality and down-regulation of Diap1 mRNA levels in M. domestica larvae injected with D. radicum Diap1 dsRNA, despite the absence of 21 bp identical sequence regions in the dsRNA. Here we show that identical 15 bp regions in dsRNA are sufficient to trigger non-target RNAi effects.