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Contact: Graeme Baldwin
graeme.baldwin@biomedcentral.com
44-020-707-94804
BioMed Central

Gene-engineered flies are pest solution

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".

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Notes to Editors

1. 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)

During the embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/2103479022414009_article.pdf?random=192197
After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on day of publication.

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

2. BMC Biology - the flagship biology journal of the BMC series - publishes research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar. It has an impact factor of 5.06

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.



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