New genetic tools for Improving SIT in Ceratitis capitata: embryonic lethality and sperm marking

Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, 37077, Göttingen, Germany


Environment friendly sterile insect technique (SIT) is being applied effectively as a component of area-wide integrated pest management (AW-IPM) for Ceratitis capitata since 1970s. Nevertheless improved biological strategies are needed to increase the efficacy of AW-IPM. Transgenic approaches should increase and widen the applicability of such programmes to different pest species. In this respect two major strategies are followed: First an approach to cause sterility was designed without interfering with spermatogenesis to maintain males and their sperm as competitive as possible. We followed a strategy, which is based on the expression of a lethal factor under the control of a promoter that is active at early blastoderm stages. The system employs the ectopic expression of a hyperactive proapoptotic gene that causes embryo-specific lethality when driven by the tetracycline-controlled transactivator tTA under the regulation of a cellularization gene enhancer/promoter. The system has been tested successfully in Drosophila melanogaster (Horn & Wimmer 2003). We tried the direct transfer of the Drosophila system to Ceratitis capitata by injecting the respective constructs that carry Drosophila-derived promoters. Unfortunately, the cellularization specific promoters from Drosophila seem not functional in Ceratitis. Therefore, the corresponding enhancers/promoters from Ceratitis were isolated and subsequently the tTA was brought independently under the control of each enhancer/promoter region. These constructs were injected in Ceratitis for further evaluation. Second, we have engineered a medfly strain carrying a sperm marking system. This strain carries two fluorescent markers. One (turboGFP) marker is under the control of the spermatogenesis specific b2-tubulin promoter from Ceratitis and is therefore sperm specifically expressed. The second (DsRed) is under the control of the polyubiquitin promoter of Drosophila. Released males from this strain could be distinguished from wildtype males in the monitoring process. In addition, monitoring of the mating success of released sterile and fluorescently sperm-marked males by trapping females and examine their spermathecae would be possible. This effective and easily recognizable sperm marking will make novel studies possible on medfly reproductive biology and using sperm marked strains could optimize releasing strategies in SIT-based AW-IPM.

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Available from: Giuliano Gasperi
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