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Getting to the root of neuronal signalling in plant-parasitic nematodes using RNA interference

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For more content, see Nematologica.

A variety of genes expressed in preparasitic second-stage juveniles (J2) of plant-parasitic nematodes appear to be vulnerable to RNA interference (RNAi) in vitro by coupling double-stranded (ds)RNA soaking with the artificial stimulation of pharyngeal pumping. Also, there is mounting evidence that the in planta generation of nematode-specific double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) has real utility in the control of these pests. Although neuronally-expressed genes in Caenorhabditis elegans are commonly refractory to RNAi, we have discovered that neuronally-expressed genes in plant-parasitic nematodes are highly susceptible to RNAi and that silencing can be induced by simple soaking procedures without the need for pharyngeal stimulation. Since most front-line anthelmintics that are used for the control of nematode parasites of animals and humans act to disrupt neuromuscular coordination, we argue that intercellular signalling processes associated with neurons have much appeal as targets for transgenic plant-based control strategies for plant-parasitic nematodes. FMRFamide-like peptides (FLPs) are a large family of neuropeptides which are intimately associated with neuromuscular regulation, and our studies on flp gene function in plant-parasitic nematodes have revealed that their expression is central to coordinated locomotory activities. We propose that the high level of conservation in nervous systems across nematodes coupled with the RNAi-susceptibility of neuronally-expressed genes in plant-parasitic nematodes provides a valuable research tool which could be used to interrogate neuronal signalling processes in nematodes.

Affiliations: 1: Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Newforge Lane, Belfast BT9 5PX, UK; 2: Parasitology, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK; 3: Department of Biomedical Sciences, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA


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