The Trojan Female Technique for pest control: a candidate mitochondrial mutation confers low male fertility across diverse nuclear backgrounds in Drosophila melanogaster

D. K. Dowling, D. M. Tompkins and N. J. Gemmell,  Evolutionary Applications,  8:8710880. 2015.

Pest species represent a major ongoing threat to global biodiversity. Effective management approaches are required that regulate pest numbers, while minimizing collateral damage to nontarget species. The Trojan Female Technique (TFT) was recently proposed as a prospective approach to biological pest control. The TFT draws on the evolutionary hypothesis that maternally inherited mitochondrial genomes are prone to the accumulation of male, but not female, harming mutations. These mutations could be harnessed to provide trans-generational fertility-based control of pest species. A candidate TFT mutation was recently described in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which confers male-only sterility in the specific isogenic nuclear background in which it is maintained. However, applicability of the TFT relies on mitochondrial mutations whose male-sterilizing effects are general across nuclear genomic contexts. We test this assumption, expressing the candidate TFT-mutation bearing haplotype alongside a range of nuclear backgrounds and comparing its fertility in males, relative to that of control haplotypes. We document consistently lower fertility for males harbouring the TFT mutation, in both competitive and noncompetitive mating contexts, across all nuclear backgrounds screened. This indicates that TFT mutations conferring reduced male fertility can segregate within populations and could be harnessed to facilitate this novel form of pest control.