Development and utilization of transgenic New World screwworm,Cochliomyia hominivorax

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Abstract

The New World screwworm (NWS), Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel) (Diptera: Calliphoridae), was the first insect to be effectively controlled using the sterile insect technique (SIT). Recent efforts to improve SIT control of this species have centred on the development of genetically transformed strains using the piggyBac transposon vector system. Eight transgenic strains were produced incorporating an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) marker gene under polyubiquitin regulation that has the potential for use as a genetic marking system for released males. The transgenic strains were genetically and phenotypically characterized, including for life fitness parameters and mating competitiveness. These characteristics were unique for each strain and thus some strains were deemed suitable for incorporation into SIT eradication programmes. The strain with the best attributes is designated ‘CLAY’. Four of the strains, including CLAY, have been successfully cryopreserved so that their original characteristics should be unchanged when further evaluation is required. With the demonstration of efficient germ-line transformation in NWS, allowing production of fit and competitive transformants, it is now possible to consider further transgenic strain development to improve SIT that are currently being tested in other dipteran species. This includes strains that allow genetic marking with fluorescent proteins, genetic sexing by female lethality, male-specific fluorescent sorting and male sterility by testis-specific lethality. The SIT may also be improved upon by new strategies resulting in lethality of offspring of released insects using conditional lethal systems based upon temperature-dependent or dietary tetracycline regulation of lethal gene expression. Both the creation of new NWS transgenic strains and the ecological safety of their release will be enhanced by new vector systems that allow specific genomic targeting of vector constructs and their subsequent immobilization, ensuring transgene and strain stability.

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