Manipulating Insect Sex Determination Pathways for Genetic Pest Management: Opportunities and Challenges

A. Siddall, T. Harvey-Samuel, T. Chapman and P. T. Leftwich,  Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology,  10. 2022.

Sex determination pathways in insects are generally characterised by an upstream primary signal, which is highly variable across species, and that regulates the splicing of a suite of downstream but highly-conserved genes (transformer, doublesex and fruitless). In turn, these downstream genes then regulate the expression of sex-specific characteristics in males and females. Identification of sex determination pathways has and continues to be, a critical component of insect population suppression technologies. For example, “first-generation” transgenic technologies such as fsRIDL (Female-Specific Release of Insects carrying Dominant Lethals) enabled efficient selective removal of females from a target population as a significant improvement on the sterile insect technique (SIT). Second-generation technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 homing gene drives and precision-guided SIT (pgSIT) have used gene editing technologies to manipulate sex determination genes in vivo. The development of future, third-generation control technologies, such as Y-linked drives, (female to male) sex-reversal, or X-shredding, will require additional knowledge of aspects of sexual development, including a deeper understanding of the nature of primary signals and dosage compensation. This review shows how knowledge of sex determination in target pest species is fundamental to all phases of the development of control technologies.

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