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Targeting the autosomal Ceratitis capitata transformer gene using Cas9 or dCas9 to masculinize XX individuals without inducing mutations


Primo, Pasquale; Meccariello, Angela; Inghilterra, Maria Grazia; Gravina, Andrea; Del Corsano, Giuseppe; Volpe, Gennaro; Sollazzo, Germano; Aceto, Serena; Robinson, Mark D; Salvemini, Marco; Saccone, Giuseppe (2020). Targeting the autosomal Ceratitis capitata transformer gene using Cas9 or dCas9 to masculinize XX individuals without inducing mutations. BMC Genetics, 21(Suppl 2):150.

Abstract

Background: Females of the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (Medfly) are major agricultural pests, as they lay eggs into the fruit crops of hundreds of plant species. In Medfly, female sex determination is based on the activation of Cctransformer (Cctra). A maternal contribution of Cctra is required to activate Cctra itself in the XX embryos and to start and epigenetically maintain a Cctra positive feedback loop, by female-specific alternative splicing, leading to female development. In XY embryos, the male determining Maleness-on-the-Y gene (MoY) blocks this activation and Cctra produces male-specific transcripts encoding truncated CcTRA isoforms and male differentiation occurs.

Results: With the aim of inducing frameshift mutations in the first coding exon to disrupt both female-specific and shorter male-specific CcTRA open reading frames (ORF), we injected Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (Cas9 and single guide RNA, sgRNA) in embryos. As this approach leads to mostly monoallelic mutations, masculinization was expected only in G1 XX individuals carrying biallelic mutations, following crosses of G0 injected individuals. Surprisingly, these injections into XX-only embryos led to G0 adults that included not only XX females but also 50% of reverted fertile XX males. The G0 XX males expressed male-specific Cctra transcripts, suggesting full masculinization. Interestingly, out of six G0 XX males, four displayed the Cctra wild type sequence. This finding suggests that masculinization by Cas9-sgRNA injections was independent from its mutagenic activity. In line with this observation, embryonic targeting of Cctra in XX embryos by a dead Cas9 (enzymatically inactive, dCas9) also favoured a male-specific splicing of Cctra, in both embryos and adults.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that the establishment of Cctra female-specific autoregulation during the early embryogenesis has been repressed in XX embryos by the transient binding of the Cas9-sgRNA on the first exon of the Cctra gene. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that the shift of Cctra splicing from female to male mode is induced also by dCas9. Collectively, the present findings corroborate the idea that a transient embryonic inactivation of Cctra is sufficient for male sex determination.

Abstract

Background: Females of the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (Medfly) are major agricultural pests, as they lay eggs into the fruit crops of hundreds of plant species. In Medfly, female sex determination is based on the activation of Cctransformer (Cctra). A maternal contribution of Cctra is required to activate Cctra itself in the XX embryos and to start and epigenetically maintain a Cctra positive feedback loop, by female-specific alternative splicing, leading to female development. In XY embryos, the male determining Maleness-on-the-Y gene (MoY) blocks this activation and Cctra produces male-specific transcripts encoding truncated CcTRA isoforms and male differentiation occurs.

Results: With the aim of inducing frameshift mutations in the first coding exon to disrupt both female-specific and shorter male-specific CcTRA open reading frames (ORF), we injected Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (Cas9 and single guide RNA, sgRNA) in embryos. As this approach leads to mostly monoallelic mutations, masculinization was expected only in G1 XX individuals carrying biallelic mutations, following crosses of G0 injected individuals. Surprisingly, these injections into XX-only embryos led to G0 adults that included not only XX females but also 50% of reverted fertile XX males. The G0 XX males expressed male-specific Cctra transcripts, suggesting full masculinization. Interestingly, out of six G0 XX males, four displayed the Cctra wild type sequence. This finding suggests that masculinization by Cas9-sgRNA injections was independent from its mutagenic activity. In line with this observation, embryonic targeting of Cctra in XX embryos by a dead Cas9 (enzymatically inactive, dCas9) also favoured a male-specific splicing of Cctra, in both embryos and adults.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that the establishment of Cctra female-specific autoregulation during the early embryogenesis has been repressed in XX embryos by the transient binding of the Cas9-sgRNA on the first exon of the Cctra gene. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that the shift of Cctra splicing from female to male mode is induced also by dCas9. Collectively, the present findings corroborate the idea that a transient embryonic inactivation of Cctra is sufficient for male sex determination.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
08 Research Priority Programs > Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Genetics
Health Sciences > Genetics (clinical)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Genetics(clinical), Genetics
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:25 Jan 2021 06:48
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 16:28
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1471-2156
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12863-020-00941-4
PubMed ID:33339496

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