The genetic basis of the black pupae phenotype in tephritid fruit flies

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The genetic basis of the black pupae phenotype in tephritid fruit flies


Paulo, D. F.; Nguyen, T. N. M.; Corpuz, R. L.; Kauwe, A. N.; Rendon, P.; Ruano, R. E. Y.; Cardoso, A. A. S.; Gouvi, G.; Fung, E.; Crisp, P.; Okada, A.; Choo, A.; Stauffer, C.; Bourtzis, K.; Sim, S. B.; Baxter, S. W.; Geib, S. M.


The remarkable diversity of insect pigmentation offers a captivating avenue for exploring evolution and genetics. In tephritid fruit flies, decoding the molecular pathways underlying pigmentation traits also plays a central role in applied entomology. Mutant phenotypes like the black pupae (bp) have long been used as a component of genetic sexing strains, allowing male-only release in tephritid sterile insect technique applications. However, the genetic basis of bp remains largely unknown. Here, we present independent evidence from classical and modern genetics showing that the bp phenotype in the GUA10 strain of the Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, is caused by a large deletion at the ebony locus resulting in the removal of the entire protein-coding region of the gene. Targeted knockout of ebony induced analogous bp phenotypes across six tephritid species spanning over 50 million years of divergent evolution. This functionally validated our findings and allowed for a deeper investigation into the role of Ebony in pigmentation and development in these species. Our study offers fundamental knowledge for developing new sexing strains based on the bp marker and for future evolutionary developmental biology studies in tephritid fruit flies.

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