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Open Access Research article

A genomic perspective to assessing quality of mass-reared SIT flies used in Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) eradication in California

Bernarda Calla1, Brian Hall2, Shaobin Hou3 and Scott M Geib1*

Author Affiliations

1 Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research Unit, USDA-ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hilo, HI 96720, USA

2 Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai’i Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

3 University of Hawai’i Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:98  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-98

Published: 5 February 2014



Temperature sensitive lethal (tsl) mutants of the tephritid C. capitata are used extensively in control programs involving sterile insect technique in California. These flies are artificially reared and treated with ionizing radiation to render males sterile for further release en masse into the field to compete with wild males and disrupt establishment of invasive populations. Recent research suggests establishment of C. capitata in California, despite the fact that over 250 million sterile flies are released weekly as part of the state’s preventative program. In this project, genome-level quality assessment was performed, measured as expression differences between the Vienna-7 tsl mutants used in SIT programs and wild flies. RNA-seq was performed to provide a genome-wide map of the messenger RNA populations in C. capitata, and to investigate significant expression changes in Vienna-7 mass reared flies.


Flies from the Vienna-7 colony showed a markedly reduced abundance of transcripts related to visual and chemical responses, including light stimuli, neural development and signaling pathways when compared to wild flies. In addition, genes associated with muscle development and locomotion were shown to be reduced. This suggests that the Vienna-7 line may be less competitive in mating and host plant finding where these stimuli are utilized. Irradiated flies showed several transcripts representing stress associated with irradiation.


There are significant changes at the transcriptome level that likely alter the competitiveness of mass reared flies and provide justification for pursuing methods for strain improvement, increasing competitiveness of mass-reared flies, or exploring alternative SIT approaches to increase the efficiency of eradication programs.

Medfly; Ceratitis capitata; RNA-seq; Sterile insect technique; Irradiation; Sterilization