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Nat Biotechnol. 2007 Mar;25(3):353-7. Epub 2007 Feb 18.

Female-specific insect lethality engineered using alternative splicing.

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  • 1Oxitec Limited, 71 Milton Park, Oxford OX14 4RX, UK.


The Sterile Insect Technique is a species-specific and environmentally friendly method of pest control involving mass release of sterilized insects that reduce the wild population through infertile matings. Insects carrying a female-specific autocidal genetic system offer an attractive alternative to conventional sterilization methods while also eliminating females from the release population. We exploited sex-specific alternative splicing in insects to engineer female-specific autocidal genetic systems in the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. These rely on the insertion of cassette exons from the C. capitata transformer gene into a heterologous tetracycline-repressible transactivator such that the transactivator transcript is disrupted in male splice variants but not in the female-specific one. As the key components of these systems function across a broad phylogenetic range, this strategy addresses the paucity of sex-specific expression systems (e.g., early-acting, female-specific promoters) in insects other than Drosophila melanogaster. The approach may have wide applicability for regulating gene expression in other organisms, particularly for combinatorial control with appropriate promoters.

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