The transformer-2 and fruitless characterisation with developmental expression profiles of sex-determining genes in Bactrocera dorsalis and B. correcta

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 21;10(1):17938. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74856-6.


Sex determination in tephritid fruit flies involves a signaling cascade of alternatively spliced genes. The Transformer (TRA) and Transformer-2 (TRA-2) complex establishes an autoregulatory loop switching sex-specific splicing of tra pre-mRNA in females. The TRA/TRA-2 complex also regulates the sex-specific splicing of downstream effector genes, doublesex (dsx) and fruitless (fru). In Ceratitis capitata, a Maleness-on the-Y (MoY) gene modulates sex-specifically spliced Cctra pre-mRNA and results in the breakdown of the Cctra autoregulatory loop in males. In this study, the tra-2 and fru genes were characterised in two key pests, Bactrocera dorsalis and B. correcta. The tra-2 genes showed high degrees of conservation among tephritids. The complex gene organisation for each of Bdfru and Bcfru were identified. There are sex-specific and non sex-specific transcripts generated by alternative promoters as found in Drosophila melanogaster and other insects. RNAi knockdown of Bdtra transcripts showed that BdTRA controls the sex-specific splicing of Bddsx and Bdfru pre-mRNAs. Developmental expression analysis shows that multiple splice variants of Bdtra and Bctra RNAs are present before and during cellular blastoderm formation and that the mature sex-specific variants become fixed later in embryogenesis. Furthermore, the BddsxM splice variants are found in early embryos at the beginning of gastulation, but BdfruM does not appear until the larval stage. We proposed that the zygotic tra loop is initiated in both female and male embryos before becoming automatised or abolished by MoY, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA Splicing / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Ribonucleoproteins / genetics*
  • Sex Determination Processes / genetics*
  • Tephritidae / embryology
  • Tephritidae / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Tra protein, Drosophila
  • Transcription Factors
  • fru protein, Drosophila
  • mle protein, Drosophila
  • tra2 protein, Drosophila
  • DNA Helicases