Gene-engineered flies are pest solution

Jan 27, 2009

For the first time, male flies of a serious agricultural pest, the medfly, have been bred to generate offspring that die whilst they are still embryos. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology describe the creation of the flies that, when released into a wild population, could out-compete the normal male flies and cause a generation of pests to be stillborn - protecting important crops.

Ernst A. Wimmer from the Georg-August-University in Göttingen, Germany, led an international team of researchers who developed the lethal Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata), also known as medfly. He said, “Here, we present the first alternative, radiation-free, reproductive sterility system for medfly based on transgenic embryonic lethality”.

The medfly is a devastating and economically important pest. The currently used method of controlling it is the sterile insect technique (SIT), whereby male flies are irradiated to induce reproductive sterility and then released into the wild, where competition with fertile males reduces the overall insect population. This radioactive version of the SIT has the drawback that the irradiated males are often less competitive than their wild brethren and so an awkward balance must be stuck between competitiveness and degree of sterility. According to Wimmer, “When transgenic males carrying our transgenic system mate with wild females, all progeny die during embryogenesis without the need for radiation. Due to the complete lethality, no fruit damage from developing larvae will occur and no transgenes can pass into the wild population. Moreover, males carrying this system are highly competitive”.

In order to suppress the lethality system during rearing of the flies, supplements are added to their food that switch off the genetic self-destruct. The authors write that, “Use of our embryonic lethality system, without the need for radiation, can increase the safety of SIT programs, since accidental releases would not lead to infestations of the environment and possible risks coming from isotopic sources can be eliminated for workers and the environment”.

Paper: Conditional embryonic lethality to improve the Sterile Insect Technique in Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae), Marc F Schetelig, Carlos Caceres, Antigone Zacharopoulou, Gerald Franz and Ernst A. Wimmer, BMC Biology (in press)

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Good for the goose, not so great for the gander

Feb 08, 2007

A provocative new model proposed by molecular biologist John Tower of the University of Southern California may help answer an enduring scientific question: Why do women tend to live longer than men? That tendency ...

Recommended for you

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

6 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

Chrono, the last piece of the circadian clock puzzle?

8 hours ago

All organisms, from mammals to fungi, have daily cycles controlled by a tightly regulated internal clock, called the circadian clock. The whole-body circadian clock, influenced by the exposure to light, dictates the wake-sleep ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

denijane
not rated yet Jan 28, 2009
Is it just me that finds that killing a whole specie to increase your crops is very irresponsible and cruel?

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...