A transgene-based, embryo-specific lethality system for insect pest management

Nat Biotechnol. 2003 Jan;21(1):64-70. doi: 10.1038/nbt769. Epub 2002 Dec 16.


Biological approaches to insect pest management offer alternatives to pesticidal control. In area-wide control programs that cover entire regions, the sterile insect technique (SIT) can be used to successfully suppress economically important pest species by the mass release of sterilized pest organisms. However, conventional sterilization by ionizing radiation reduces insect fitness, which can result in reduced competitiveness of the sterilized insects. Here we report a transgene-based, dominant embryonic lethality system that allows for generation of large quantities of competitive but sterile insects without the need of irradiation. The system involves the ectopic expression of a hyperactive pro-apoptotic gene that causes embryo-specific lethality when driven by the tetracycline-controlled transactivator (tTA) under the regulation of a cellularization gene enhancer-promoter. We have successfully tested this system in Drosophila melanogaster. The embryonic lethality can be suppressed maternally, which will allow it to be combined with transgenic female-specific lethality systems to raise only vigorous but sterile males.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / embryology
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genes, Lethal*
  • Male
  • Pest Control, Biological / methods*
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology


  • Tetracycline