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A dominant lethal genetic system for autocidal control of the Mediterranean fruitfly


The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) used to control insect pests relies on the release of large numbers of radiation-sterilized insects. Irradiation can have a negative impact on the subsequent performance of the released insects1,2,3,4 and therefore on the cost and effectiveness of a control program5. This and other problems associated with current SIT programs could be overcome by the use of recombinant DNA methods and molecular genetics6,7,8,9,10,11,12. Here we describe the construction of strains of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) harboring a tetracycline-repressible transactivator (tTA) that causes lethality in early developmental stages of the heterozygous progeny but has little effect on the survival of the parental transgenic tTA insects. We show that these properties should prove advantageous for the implementation of insect pest control programs.

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Figure 1: Tetracycline-repressible lethal systems.
Figure 2: Repressible dominant lethality in transgenic medfly.
Figure 3: Effect of derepression of tTAV on adult male longevity.
Figure 4: Effect of derepression of tTAV on adult male mating competitiveness.

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We thank Karen Clifton for technical assistance, Roger Wood and Pedro Rendón for providing medfly strains, Al Handler, Bruno Bello and Pernille Rorth for plasmids, Bob Possee for baculovirus DNA and Helen White-Cooper for advice. This work was funded by UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant 43/D16899 to L.A., with additional support from the UK Medical Research Council.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luke Alphey.

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Competing interests

Those authors affiliated to Oxitec Ltd. (as noted in the author list) are employees of this company, which therefore provided salary and other support for the research program. Also, all these authors have shares or share options in Oxitec Ltd. Both Oxitec Ltd. and Oxford University have one or more patents or patent applications related to the subject of this paper.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

Marker expression in transgenic medfly (PDF 90 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

Plasmids pLA656 and pLA928 (PDF 121 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 3

Completed predicted sequence of plasmid pLA656 (PDF 121 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 4

Completed predicted sequence of plasmid pLA928 (PDF 119 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Derepression of tTAV in adults (PDF 54 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Flanking sequence of piggyBac transposons (PDF 112 kb)

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Gong, P., Epton, M., Fu, G. et al. A dominant lethal genetic system for autocidal control of the Mediterranean fruitfly. Nat Biotechnol 23, 453–456 (2005).

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