Theme overview

The Sea Lamprey Genetic Control theme encompasses research to support the development and evaluation of genetic technologies that could be used to control or even eradicate invasive sea lamprey in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Implementation of genetic control requires a long-term research program to fully assess feasibility, efficacy, and risk. Preliminary research has evaluated the social acceptance and potential risks associated with different genetic control technologies. Future efforts will initially need to focus on the basic research required to:(1) identify suitable candidate genes to serve as targets for modification—i.e., gene sequences or products (e.g., microRNAs or siRNAs)that, when disrupted, enhanced, or ingested, result in species-specific physiological or metabolic changes in sea lamprey that impair survival or fertility or distort population sex ratios. Possible targets include genes involved in embryological development, sex determination, sex differentiation, metamorphosis, or sexual maturation; and (2) develop and improve existing tools for genome editing and transformation specific to sea lamprey and the control program—including precise control of genome editing techniques to produce genetically modified sea lamprey (e.g., CRISPR/Cas9), cost-effective methods for introducing genetically modified sea lamprey into the Great Lakes (including completing the life cycle under contained laboratory conditions), and strategies to mitigate risk (e.g., to prevent spread to non-target populations or species). Research to explore options for genetically modifying lamprey host species (e.g., host vaccination) could also be fruitful.

Relevant resources

McCauley, D.W., Docker, M.F., Whyard, S., and Li, W. 2015. Lampreys as diverse model organisms in the genomics era. Bioscience 65: 1046–1056. (

Thresher, R.E., Jones, M., and Drake, D.A.R. 2019. Evaluating active genetic options for the control of sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 76:1186–1202. (

Thresher, R.E., Jones, M., and Drake, D.A.R. 2019. Stakeholder attitudes towards the use of recombinant technology to manage the impact of an invasive species: sealamprey in the North American Great Lakes. BiologicalInvasions 21:575–586. (

York, J.R., Thresher, R.E., McCauley, D.W. (in press) Applying functional genomics to the study of lamprey development and sea lamprey population control. Journal of Great Lakes Research (in press). (

Theme leaders

Margaret Docker
University of Manitoba
Department of Biological Sciences
50 Sifton Road
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2
Phone: (204) 474-8831