Gene drive and genetic sex conversion in the global agricultural pest Ceratitis capitata

Meccariello, Angela, Hou, Shibo, Davydova, Serafima, Fawcett, James Daniel, Siddall, Alexandra, Leftwich, Philip T. ORCID:, Krsticevic, Flavia, Papathanos, Philippos Aris and Windbichler, Nikolai (2024) Gene drive and genetic sex conversion in the global agricultural pest Ceratitis capitata. Nature Communications, 15. ISSN 2041-1723

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Homing-based gene drives are recently proposed interventions promising the area-wide, species-specific genetic control of harmful insect populations. Here we characterise a first set of gene drives in a tephritid agricultural pest species, the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (medfly). Our results show that the medfly is highly amenable to homing-based gene drive strategies. By targeting the medfly transformer gene, we also demonstrate how CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive can be coupled to sex conversion, whereby genetic females are transformed into fertile and harmless XX males. Given this unique malleability of sex determination, we modelled gene drive interventions that couple sex conversion and female sterility and found that such approaches could be effective and tolerant of resistant allele selection in the target population. Our results open the door for developing gene drive strains for the population suppression of the medfly and related tephritid pests by co-targeting female reproduction and shifting the reproductive sex ratio towards males. They demonstrate the untapped potential for gene drives to tackle agricultural pests in an environmentally friendly and economical way.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper. Input data and scripts to generate the Fig. panels presented in the paper available at ( We utilized the Ccap2.1 reference genome assembly, the EGII-3.2.1 genome assembly as well as the Ccap2.1 reference annotation available via Genbank accessions GCA_000347755.4, GCA_905071925.1 and GCF_000347755.3 respectively. Source data are provided with this paper. Code availability: The SMS model code and parameters are available at ( and R scripts for visualisation are available at ( Funding information: This study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under research grant BB/W00304X/1 to N.W. and A.M., Imperial College Research Fellowship 2020 to A.M. and the Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD Research grant no. IS-5180-19) to PAP. A.S. is supported by a UKRI BBSRC Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (Grant No. BB/M011216/1 awarded to PTL and Professor Tracey Chapman).
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Biosciences Teaching and Education Research
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2023 14:30
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 18:26
DOI: 10.1101/2023.08.16.553191

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