Genetic breakdown of a Tet-off conditional lethality system for insect population control

Y. Zhao, M. F. Schetelig and A. M. Handler,  Nature Communications,  11:3095. 2020.

Genetically modified conditional lethal strains have been created to improve the control of insect pest populations damaging to human health and agriculture. However, understanding the potential for the genetic breakdown of lethality systems by rare spontaneous mutations, or selection for inherent suppressors, is critical since field release studies are in progress. This knowledge gap was addressed in a Drosophila tetracycline-suppressible embryonic lethality system by analyzing the frequency and structure of primary-site spontaneous mutations and second-site suppressors resulting in heritable survivors from 1.2 million zygotes. Here we report that F1 survivors due to primary-site deletions and indels occur at a 5.8 × 10−6 frequency, while survival due to second-site maternal-effect suppressors occur at a ~10−5 frequency. Survivors due to inherent lethal effector suppressors could result in a resistant field population, and we suggest that this risk may be mitigated by the use of dual redundant, albeit functionally unrelated, lethality systems.


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