CRISPR-mediated knockout of cardinal and cinnabar eye pigmentation genes in the western tarnished plant bug

C. C. Heu, R. J. Gross, K. P. Le, D. M. LeRoy, B. Fan, J. J. Hull, C. S. Brent and J. A. Fabrick,  Scientific Reports,  12. 2022.

The western tarnished plant bug, Lygus hesperus, is a key hemipteran pest of numerous agricultural, horticultural, and industrial crops in the western United States and Mexico. A lack of genetic tools in L. hesperus hinders progress in functional genomics and in developing innovative pest control methods such as gene drive. Here, using RNA interference (RNAi) against cardinal (LhCd), cinnabar (LhCn), and white (LhW), we showed that knockdown of LhW was lethal to developing embryos, while knockdown of LhCd or LhCn produced bright red eye phenotypes, in contrast to wild-type brown eyes. We further used CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated) genome editing to generate germline knockouts of both LhCd (Card) and LhCn (Cinn), producing separate strains of L. hesperus characterized by mutant eye phenotypes. Although the cardinal knockout strain Card exhibited a gradual darkening of the eyes to brown typical of the wild-type line later in nymphal development, we observed bright red eyes throughout all life stages in the cinnabar knockout strain Cinn, making it a viable marker for tracking gene editing in L. hesperus. These results provide evidence that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing functions in L. hesperus and that eye pigmentation genes are useful for tracking the successful genetic manipulation of this insect.

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