Efficient sex separation by exploiting differential alternative splicing of a dominant marker in Aedes aegypti

Shih-Che Weng, Igor Antoshechkin, Eric Marois, Omar S. Akbari,  PLoS Genetics,  2023.

Only female mosquitoes consume blood giving them the opportunity to transmit deadly human pathogens. Therefore, it is critical to remove females before conducting releases for genetic biocontrol interventions. Here we describe a robust sex-sorting approach termed SEPARATOR (Sexing Element Produced by Alternative RNA-splicing of A Transgenic Observable Reporter) that exploits sex-specific alternative splicing of an innocuous reporter to ensure exclusive dominant male-specific expression. Using SEPARATOR, we demonstrate reliable sex selection from early larval and pupal stages in Aedes aegypti, and use a Complex Object Parametric Analyzer and Sorter (COPAS) to demonstrate scalable high-throughput sex-selection of first instar larvae. Additionally, we use this approach to sequence the transcriptomes of early larval males and females and find several genes that are sex-specifically expressed. SEPARATOR can simplify mass production of males for release programs and is designed to be cross-species portable and should be instrumental for genetic biocontrol interventions.

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