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Transgenic Sexing System for Genetic Control of Australian Sheep Blow Fly

30 June 2014

The New World screwworm and the Australian sheep blow fly Lucilia cuprina are devastating pests of livestock.

The larvae of these species feed on the tissue of the living animal and can cause death if untreated.

The sterile insect technique or SIT was used to eradicate screwworm from North and Central America.

This inspired efforts to develop strains containing complex chromosomal rearrangements for genetic control of L. cuprina in Australia.

According to a study by Fang Li, Holly Wantuch, Rebecca Linger, Esther Belikoff and Max Scott at North Carolina State University, North Carolina State University, Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, although one field trial was promising, the approach was abandoned due to costs and difficulties in mass rearing the strain.

As the efficiency of SIT can be significantly increased if only sterile males are released, we have developed transgenic strains of L. cuprina that carry a dominant tetracycline repressible female lethal genetic system.

Lethality is due to overexpression of an auto-regulated tetracycline repressible transactivator (tTA) gene and occurs mostly at the pupal stage.

Dominant female lethality was achieved by replacing the Drosophila hsp70 core promoter with a Lucilia hsp70 core promoter-5/UTR for tTA overexpression.

The strains carry a dominant strongly expressed marker that will facilitate identification in the field.

Interestingly, the sexes could be reliably sorted by fluorescence or color from the early first instar larval stage as females that overexpress tTA also overexpress the linked marker gene.

Male-only strains of L. cuprina developed in this study could form the basis for a future genetic control program.

Moreover, the system developed for L. cuprina should be readily transferrable to other major calliphorid livestock pests including the New and Old World screwworm.

June 2014

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