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ACS Synth Biol. 2013 Mar 15;2(3):160-6.

Engineered female-specific lethality for control of pest Lepidoptera.

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Oxitec Ltd, 71 Milton Park, Oxford OX14 4RX, UK.


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a pest control strategy involving the mass release of radiation-sterilized insects, which reduce the target population through nonviable matings. In Lepidoptera, SIT could be more broadly applicable if the deleterious effects of sterilization by irradiation could be avoided. Moreover, male-only release can improve the efficacy of SIT. Adequate methods of male-only production in Lepidoptera are currently lacking, in contrast to some Diptera. We describe a synthetic genetic system that allows male-only moth production for SIT and also replaces radiation sterilization with inherited female-specific lethality. We sequenced and characterized the doublesex (dsx) gene from the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella). Sex-alternate splicing from dsx was used to develop a conditional lethal genetic sexing system in two pest moths: the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) and pink bollworm. This system shows promise for enhancing existing pink bollworm SIT, as well as broadening SIT-type control to diamondback moth and other Lepidoptera.

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