Research ArticlePOPULATION GENETICS

CRISPR/Cas9 gene drives in genetically variable and nonrandomly mating wild populations

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Science Advances  19 May 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 5, e1601910
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601910

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Abstract

Synthetic gene drives based on CRISPR/Cas9 have the potential to control, alter, or suppress populations of crop pests and disease vectors, but it is unclear how they will function in wild populations. Using genetic data from four populations of the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, we show that most populations harbor genetic variants in Cas9 target sites, some of which would render them immune to drive (ITD). We show that even a rare ITD allele can reduce or eliminate the efficacy of a CRISPR/Cas9-based synthetic gene drive. This effect is equivalent to and accentuated by mild inbreeding, which is a characteristic of many disease-vectoring arthropods. We conclude that designing such drives will require characterization of genetic variability and the mating system within and among targeted populations.

Keywords
  • gene drive
  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • Population Genetics
  • population suppression
  • population engineering
  • selfish gene
  • immune to drive
  • genetic variation
  • inbreeding
  • nonrandom mating

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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