Our work describing the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to obtain loss of function mutations in the Drosophila suzukii white and Sex lethal (Sxl) genes was recently published in BBRC (web). Males homozygous for white mutations developed white eyes. G0 females carrying mutations in the Sxl gene showed abnormal genitalia and ovaries, as expected since Sxl is essential for female development. We suggest that the Sxl gene could be a good target for Cas9-mediated gene drive to suppress populations of this invasive pest. Our paper was recently highlighted on the IGTRCN site.
Megan is a first year student in the Genetics PhD program and recently joined the lab. She will be working on developing male-only strains of L. cuprina with future application to C. hominivorax. Welcome Megan!
Laci Bowes also recently joined the lab as a part-time undergrad lab assistant on the blowfly projects. In addition, Laci is undertaking a research project on Drosophila melanogaster working with Katherine.
Sophia’s team won their debate and the overall first place in the student debates at the recent annual ESA meeting. Johanna Elsensohn and Jen Baltzegar were also part of the team from the NCSU entomology dept. Their debate topic was: “With the development of tools like RNAi, in the future we may be capable of eradicating species. If we can eradicate a species, should we?” They were randomly assigned the Con Position. Congratulations!
Male-only releases have several advantages for an SIT program. In 2014 we published a transgenic sexing system for Lucilia cuprina. Although the strains produced only males on diet that lacked tetracycline, females died at the pupal stage. This is not optimal for an SIT program as the female larvae consume diet, which can be expensive. In a recent paper in Scientific Reports, we describe a conditional embryo female lethal system that is very efficient. The system should be transferrable to the New World screwworm. Ying was first author on this study.
Lucilia cuprina has a large, heterochromatic X chromosome with few genes. In a study recently published in PLoS ONE, we found that endogenous genes on the X chromosome are dosage compensated, that is expressed equally in males and females. However, transgenes that land on the X chromosome are more highly expressed in females, showing little if any dosage compensation. It appears that endogenous genes can respond to the dosage compensation mechanism but recently arrived transgenes cannot. Rebecca was first author and Esther coauthor on this study.
The USDA has announced a $6.7 million grant for research and education on spotted wing Drosophila. This multi-institutional, multi-investigator grant is being led by Hannah Burrack at NCSU. Our role in the grant is to further develop transgenic male-only strains for a genetic control program
Katherine was selected by the NC State GAANN Biotechnology Fellowship Committee to receive a GAANN Fellowship for one year, renewable up to one additional year. This fellowship provides a need-based stipend as well as funds to cover tuition, fees, and health insurance. This prestigious fellowship was awarded on the basis of Katherine’s fine academic record, demonstrated interest in molecular biotechnology and recommendation from the NC State Genetics Program. Congratulations Katherine!
The Commission for the Eradication and Prevention of screwworm (COPEG) has awarded 4 years of funding for the continued development of tetracycline-repressible male-only strains of the New World screwworm, Cochliomyia hominivorax. The focus will be on developing genetic systems that are lethal to female flies at the embryo or early larval stages. The grant also included funding for the assembly of a high quality reference genome sequence of C. hominivorax. To facilitate genome assembly, highly inbred strains are being made by performing over 10 generations of single pair crosses.