RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown serves as an effective technique for the functional analysis of developmental genes that is well established in many organisms. In the beetle Tribolium castaneum, double-stranded RNA is applied by simple injection and distributes systemically within the tissue. Thus, systematic testing for RNAi specificity and efficiency is easily possible in this organism. Generally, the use of non-overlapping dsRNA fragments yielding qualitatively identical phenotypes is the method of choice to verify target-specific knockdown effects. Here, we show that UTR-specific RNAi results in different effects regarding quality, severity and penetrance when compared to RNAi fragments directed at the coding region. Furthermore, when using 3′UTR-specific dsRNA, we first describe the Distal-less RNAi antenna-to-leg transformation phenotype in the Tribolium larva, which has only been observed in the adult beetle and Drosophila so far. In addition, we unexpectedly observed sterility effects caused by 3′UTR-specific knockdown of the Tribolium-Sp8 orthologue that is not seen when dsRNA targeted a sequence within the coding-region or the 5′UTR that itself led to early embryonic lethality. We conclude that targeting UTR sequences by region-specific RNAi can reveal unexpected new aspects of gene function applicable in basic research and crop protection.
Development Genes and Evolution – Springer Journals
Published: May 31, 2018
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