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New CRP: Generic Approach for the Development of Genetic Sexing Strains for SIT Applications (D44003)

New Coordinated Research Project
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Ceratitis capitata males with wild type and apricot eye color phenotypes (Photo: Elena Isabel Cancio Martinez)

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture will launch a new six-year (2019-2024) Coordinated Research Project (CRP), ‘Generic Approach for the Development of Genetic Sexing Strains for SIT Applications’ (D44003).

CRP at a Glance

This Coordinated Research Project will focus on the development and evaluation of generic approaches for the construction of genetic sexing strains (GSS) to be used for sterile insect technique (SIT) applications, as part of area wide-integrated pest management (AW-IPM) programmes, to control populations of agricultural pests and disease vectors.

Background

The application of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) in area-wide integrated pest management programmes continues to increase in response to requests from Member States. These requests include the development and refinement of SIT packages for programmes to control populations of different insect pests of agricultural, veterinary and human health importance. The development and operational application of such programmes with an SIT component against insect pests and disease vectors continue to reveal research areas where new technologies could further improve efficiency and thus lead to more efficacious programmes.

One critical area where important advances are needed to increase the cost-effectiveness of the technique or to ensure the biosecurity of the SIT application in the case of disease vectors, concerns the development of genetic sexing strains (GSS). In SIT programmes against agricultural pests, the release of both sexes is primarily of economic concern; however, in SIT programmes against some insect disease vectors (e.g. mosquitoes), it is an essential prerequisite to release only males since females are blood feeders and may potentially transmit the diseases.

GSS consists of at least two principal components: (a) a Y-autosome translocation, T(Y;A), which is required to link the inheritance of this marker to sex and (b) a selectable marker which is necessary for sex separation or to female killing. The latter includes a temperature-sensitive lethal (tsl) gene, which has useful biological properties rendering it an integral component of the new generation of medfly GSS currently used in mass rearing facilities and operational programmes worldwide. Despite the importance of the tsl marker or other morphological colour markers, GSSs have not been developed in many SIT targeted species because the isolation of such naturally occurring mutants is a tedious, random and a labour-intensive process. Furthermore, the current process to develop a GSS in one species, even if successful, is not tractable to the transfer or development of similar GSSs in other, even closely related, species.

However, such mutants could now be specifically induced through new technologies. If successful, this would open the way to detect and isolate the orthologous genes in all other SIT targeted species (fruit flies, mosquitoes, tsetse flies, moths etc.) and/or induce similar mutations which could then be used for the development of GSS. In other words, the successful isolation and characterization of such marker genes and their associated mutations may provide a versatile (generic) tool towards the development of GSS for SIT applications against diverse species.

Any new genetic sexing strain developed either by irradiation and classical genetics or by novel approaches will be validated for its ability to produce only males which would be sterilized by irradiation for their potential use in SIT applications.

The outcomes of this CRP will support all TC projects focusing on the use of SIT for the population control of insect pests and disease vectors.  

CRP Overall Objective

The main objective of this CRP is the development and evaluation of generic approaches for the construction of genetic sexing strains (GSS) to be used for sterile insect technique (SIT) applications, as part of AW-IPM programmes, to control populations of agricultural pests and disease vectors with an emphasis on tephritid fruit flies and mosquito vector species.

Specific Objectives

1. Develop generic strategies for the construction of GSS for SIT applications;

2. Assess the efficiency, applicability and the range of the species transferability of the generic approaches; and

3. Evaluate, at small scale, GSS developed through the generic approaches.

Expected Research Outcome

The CRP will focus on the following: (a) identify at least two markers which could be used for generic strategies for the development of GSS for SIT applications against targeted agricultural pests and disease vectors; (b) establish and evaluate at least two strains carrying these selectable markers to be used for the development of genetic sexing strains for SIT applications against targeted agricultural pests and disease vectors; (c) develop at least two GSS based on generic approaches for SIT applications against targeted agricultural pests and disease vectors and (d) evaluate these GSS under small scale rearing conditions.

How to join the CRP

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by email to the IAEA's Research Contracts Administration Section, using the appropriate template on the CRA website. Applications should be submitted by 28 February 2019.

For further information related to this CRP, potential applicants should write to the Research Contracts Administration Contact Point.

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