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Biotechnology - Ecology

Engineered Repressible Lethality for Controlling the Pink Bollworm, a Lepidopteran Pest of Cotton
Published: Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Author: Neil I. Morrison et al.

by Neil I. Morrison, Gregory S. Simmons, Guoliang Fu, Sinead O’Connell, Adam S. Walker, Tarig Dafa’alla, Michelle Walters, John Claus, Guolei Tang, Li Jin, Thea Marubbi, Matthew J. Epton, Claire L. Harris, Robert T. Staten, Ernest Miller, Thomas A. Miller, Luke Alphey

The sterile insect technique (SIT) is an environmentally friendly method of pest control in which insects are mass-produced, irradiated and released to mate with wild counterparts. SIT has been used to control major pest insects including the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella Saunders), a global pest of cotton. Transgenic technology has the potential to overcome disadvantages associated with the SIT, such as the damaging effects of radiation on released insects. A method called RIDL (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal) is designed to circumvent the need to irradiate insects before release. Premature death of insects’ progeny can be engineered to provide an equivalent to sterilisation. Moreover, this trait can be suppressed by the provision of a dietary antidote. In the pink bollworm, we generated transformed strains using different DNA constructs, which showed moderate-to-100% engineered mortality. In permissive conditions, this effect was largely suppressed. Survival data on cotton in field cages indicated that field conditions increase the lethal effect. One strain, called OX3402C, showed highly penetrant and highly repressible lethality, and was tested on host plants where its larvae caused minimal damage before death. These results highlight a potentially valuable insecticide-free tool against pink bollworm, and indicate its potential for development in other lepidopteran pests.