White pupae phenotype of tephritids is caused by parallel mutations of a MFS transporter

Christopher M. Ward, Roswitha A. Aumann, Mark A. Whitehead, Katerina Nikolouli, Gary Leveque, Georgia Gouvi, Elisabeth Fung, Sarah J. Reiling, Haig Djambazian, Margaret A. Hughes, Sam Whiteford, Carlos Caceres-Barrios, Thu N. M. Nguyen, Amanda Choo, Peter Crisp, Sheina B. Sim, Scott M. Geib, František Marec, Irina Häcker, Jiannis RagoussisAlistair C. Darby, Kostas Bourtzis*, Simon W. Baxter, Marc F. Schetelig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Mass releases of sterilized male insects, in the frame of sterile insect technique programs, have helped suppress insect pest populations since the 1950s. In the major horticultural pests Bactrocera dorsalis, Ceratitis capitata, and Zeugodacus cucurbitae, a key phenotype white pupae (wp) has been used for decades to selectively remove females before releases, yet the gene responsible remained unknown. Here, we use classical and modern genetic approaches to identify and functionally characterize causal wp− mutations in these distantly related fruit fly species. We find that the wp phenotype is produced by parallel mutations in a single, conserved gene. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of the wp gene leads to the rapid generation of white pupae strains in C. capitata and B. tryoni. The conserved phenotype and independent nature of wp mutations suggest this technique can provide a generic approach to produce sexing strains in other major medical and agricultural insect pests.
Original languageEnglish
Article number491
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'White pupae phenotype of tephritids is caused by parallel mutations of a MFS transporter'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this