Expression of mosquito miRNAs in entomopathogenic fungus induces pathogen-mediated host RNA interference and increases fungal efficacy

C. Cui, Y. Wang, Y. Li, P. Sun, J. Jiang, H. Zhou, J. Liu and S. Wang,  Cell Reports,  41:111527. 2022.

Summary The growing threat of insecticide resistance prompts the urgent need to develop additional tools for mosquito control. Entomopathogenic fungi provide an eco-friendly alternative to chemical insecticides. One limitation to the use of mycoinsecticides is their relatively low virulence. Here, we report an approach for suppressing mosquito immunity and increasing fungal virulence. We engineered Beauveria bassiana to express Aedes immunosuppressive microRNAs (miRNAs) to induce host RNA interference (RNAi) immune responses. We show that engineered strains can produce and deliver the miRNAs into host cells to activate cross-kingdom RNAi during infection and suppress mosquito immunity by targeting multiple host genes, thereby dramatically increasing fungal virulence against Aedes aegypti and Galleria mellonella larvae. Importantly, expressing host miRNAs also significantly increases fungal virulence against insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, creating potential for insecticide-resistance management. This pathogen-mediated RNAi (pmRNAi)-based approach provides an innovative strategy to enhance the efficacy of fungal insecticides and eliminate the likelihood of resistance development.

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