Mutation of doublesex in Hyphantria cunea results in sex-specific sterility.
BACKGROUND: The gene doublesex (dsx) plays pivotal roles in sex determination and controls sexually dimorphic development in certain insects. Importantly, it also displays a potential candidate target for pest management due to its sex-specific splicing. Therefore, we used CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene disruption to investigate the function of dsx in Hyphantria cunea, an invasive forest pest. RESULT: In the present study, we identified the dsx gene from H. cunea which showed a sex-biased expression pattern that was different from other lepidopteran insects. Referring to sex-specific functional analyses in Bombyx mori, we performed a site-specific knockout of the Hcdsx gene by using a CRISPR/Cas9 system, which induced severe abnormalities in external genitalia and some incomplete sex reversal phenotypes, which in turn led to reduced sex-specific fecundity. An alternative splicing pattern of Hcdsx was altered by CRISPR/Cas9-induced mutation, and alterations in splicing affected expression of downstream genes encoding pheromone binding protein 1, vg1 and vg2 (encoding vitellogenin), which contributed to the sex-specific sterility phenotypes in the Hcdsx mutants. CONCLUSION: The Hcdsx gene plays important roles in sexual differentiation in H. cunea. Disruption of Hcdsx induced sex-specific sterility, demonstrating a potential application in control of this pest.