Development of a yeast-based RNA interference production and delivery platform as a novel biopesticide against Spotted Wing Drosophila

Project lead: Di Wu

RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved, well-characterized cellular system for gene expression regulation and defense against viruses in eukaryotes. In recent decades, RNAi has been recognized and developed as a powerful tool for agricultural pest management, primarily owing to its superb efficacy, high target specificity, and minimal pest resistance. The ultimate goal of this project is to utilize engineered, optimized yeast as a production and delivery platform for RNAi bioactive molecules to manage spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in BC. Through extensive literature searching and reverse genetic screening, we have identified a group of SWD candidate genes that are suitable for RNAi targeting. We have also generated yeast strains producing these RNAi biomolecules and are currently assessing the efficacy of these strains in causing SWD mortality through oral feeding. The knowledge gained from this project will stimulate the development of a yeast-based RNAi biopesticide that is significantly less costly, more environmentally friendly, and most importantly, more effective with less resistance than synthetic pesticides. 

Keywords: RNA interference, yeast, spotted wing drosophila, biological control