Isolation of the Male-Specific Transformer Exon as a Method for Immature Specimen Sex Identification in Chrysomya megacephala (Diptera: Calliphoridae)

J Med Entomol. 2017 Mar 1;54(2):496-500. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjw198.


Being able to efficiently differentiate between male and female individuals in the immature forms of insects allows for investigations into sexually dimorphic patterns of growth rates and gene expression. For species lacking sex-specific morphological characteristics during these periods, alternative methods must be devised. Commonly, isolation of sex determination genes reveals sex-specific band patterns and allows for markers that can be used in insect control. For blow flies, a family that includes flies of medical and forensic importance, sex has previously been identified in some members using the male-specific exon in the transformer gene. This gene is relatively conserved between members of the genera Cochliomyia and Lucilia (Diptera: Calliphoridae), and we isolated a portion of this gene in an additional forensically and medically important blow fly genus using the widespread Chrysomya megacephala (F.). We found a relatively high level of conservation between exons 1 and 2 of transformer and were able to amplify a region containing the male-specific exon in C. megacephala. A sex-specific molecular diagnostic test based on the presence of sexually dimorphic PCR product bands showed the expected genotype for adults and intrapuparial period specimens of known sex. The same result could be obtained from single third-instar larval specimens, opening up the possibility to not only determine if development rates are sex dependent, but also to investigate the development of sexually dimorphic traits of interest in C. megacephala.

Keywords: forensic entomology; genotyping; molecular sex identification; transformer.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Diptera / chemistry
  • Diptera / genetics*
  • Diptera / growth & development
  • Exons*
  • Female
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Larva / chemistry
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sex Differentiation
  • Species Specificity


  • Insect Proteins