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Conditional embryonic lethality to improve the sterile insect technique in Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae)

Marc F Schetelig15*, Carlos Caceres2, Antigone Zacharopoulou3, Gerald Franz4 and Ernst A Wimmer1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Developmental Biology, Göttingen Center for Molecular Biosciences, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, GZMB, Ernst-Caspari-Haus, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany

2 USDA-APHIS OFFICE, 4Av. 12-62 Zona 10, 01010-Guatemala City, Guatemala

3 Department of Biology, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

4 International Atomic Energy Agency, FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory Entomology Unit, A-2444 Seibersdorf, Austria

5 USDA/ARS, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA

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BMC Biology 2009, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-4

Published: 27 January 2009



The sterile insect technique (SIT) is an environment-friendly method used in area-wide pest management of the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann; Diptera: Tephritidae). Ionizing radiation used to generate reproductive sterility in the mass-reared populations before release leads to reduction of competitiveness.


Here, we present a first alternative reproductive sterility system for medfly based on transgenic embryonic lethality. This system is dependent on newly isolated medfly promoter/enhancer elements of cellularization-specifically-expressed genes. These elements act differently in expression strength and their ability to drive lethal effector gene activation. Moreover, position effects strongly influence the efficiency of the system. Out of 60 combinations of driver and effector construct integrations, several lines resulted in larval and pupal lethality with one line showing complete embryonic lethality. This line was highly competitive to wildtype medfly in laboratory and field cage tests.


The high competitiveness of the transgenic lines and the achieved 100% embryonic lethality causing reproductive sterility without the need of irradiation can improve the efficacy of operational medfly SIT programs.