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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2013 Jan;43(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.10.010. Epub 2012 Nov 5.

Transgenic sexing system for Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae) based on female-specific embryonic lethality.

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Department of Developmental Biology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, GZMB, Ernst-Caspari-Haus, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Fruit fly pest species have been successfully controlled and managed via the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), a control strategy that uses infertile matings of sterile males to wild females to reduce pest populations. Biological efficiency in the field is higher if only sterile males are released in SIT programs and production costs are also reduced. Sexing strains developed in the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (medfly) through classical genetics are immensely beneficial to medfly SIT programs but exhibit reduced fertility and fitness. Moreover, transfer of such classical genetic systems to other tephritid species is difficult. Transgenic approaches can overcome this limitation of classical genetic sexing strains (GSSs), but had resulted so far in transgenic sexing strains (TSSs) with dominant lethality at late larval and pupal stages. Here we present a transgene-based female-specific lethality system for early embryonic sexing in medfly. The system utilizes the sex-specifically spliced transformer intron to restrict ectopic mRNA translation of the pro-apoptotic gene hid(Ala5) to females only. The expression of this lethal effector gene is driven by a tetracycline-repressible transactivator gene tTA that is under the control of promoters/enhancers of early-acting cellularization genes. Despite observed position effects on the sex-specific splicing, we could effectively establish this early-acting transgenic sexing system in the medfly C. capitata. After satisfactory performance in large scale tests, TSSs based on this system will offer cost-effective sexing once introduced into SIT programs. Moreover, this approach is straight forward to be developed also for other insect pest and vector species.

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