Flock house virus as a vehicle for aphid Virus-induced gene silencing and a model for aphid biocontrol approaches

Jun Jiang, Anna Erickson, Wenjie Qiao, Emilyn E. Matsumura, Bryce W. Falk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Due to their high specificity and efficacy, RNA interference (RNAi)-based strategies have been used for fundamental functional genomics studies in a number of insects. However, its potential for translational applications in pest management is also of great interest. The lack of suitable RNAi triggering approaches, however, so far has largely precluded the implementation of RNAi-based approaches to target aphids. In this work, we first demonstrate that Flock House virus (FHV), an insect virus, can infect multiple aphid species, including the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae (M. persicae), the corn leaf aphid, Rhopalosiphum maidis (R. maidis), and the bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi (R. padi), by both microinjection and oral feeding. Using green fluorescent protein (GFP) as an indicator, we showed that the defective interfering RNA (DI-634) of FHV RNA2, which is generated autonomously during wild-type (WT) virus replication, can carry foreign sequences, and further for their functional expression. More importantly, the engineered DI-634 was incorporated into virus particles in co-infections with WT FHV. Using FHV virions containing genetically modified DI-634, the accumulation levels of the M. persicae mRNAs for Cathepsin L (CatL) and Sugar Transporter 4 (ST4), were decreased by ~ 35% and ~ 30–50%, respectively when virions were injected intrathoracically into aphids. Finally, and of more practical relevance, oral acquisition of these engineered FHV virions caused lethality of M. persicae. In summary, as a proof-of-concept, our work demonstrates that FHV can be a valuable RNAi tool for fundamental research, and suggests opportunities for using engineered insect viruses as biological agents for aphid pest control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-239
JournalJournal of Pest Science
Issue number1
Early online date8 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Aphid
  • Biocontrol
  • Flock house virus (FHV)
  • RNA interference (RNAi)
  • Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS)


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