Insecticidal double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) silence expression of vital genes by activating the RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism in insect cells. Despite high commercial interest in insecticidal dsRNA, information on resistance to dsRNA is scarce, particularly for dsRNA products with non-transgenic delivery (ex. foliar/topical application) nearing regulatory review. We report the development of the CEAS 300 population of Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) with > 11,100-fold resistance to a dsRNA targeting the V-ATPase subunit A gene after nine episodes of selection using non-transgenic delivery by foliar coating. Resistance was associated with lack of target gene down-regulation in CEAS 300 larvae and cross-resistance to another dsRNA target (COPI β; Coatomer subunit beta). In contrast, CEAS 300 larvae showed very low (~ 4-fold) reduced susceptibility to the Cry3Aa insecticidal protein from Bacillus thuringiensis. Resistance to dsRNA in CEAS 300 is transmitted as an autosomal recessive trait and is polygenic. These data represent the first documented case of resistance in an insect pest with high pesticide resistance potential using dsRNA delivered through non-transgenic techniques. Information on the genetics of resistance and availability of dsRNA-resistant L. decemlineata guide the design of resistance management tools and allow research to identify resistance alleles and estimate resistance risks.
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