CRISPR-based gene-drive systems, which copy themselves via gene conversion mediated by the homology-directed repair (HDR) pathway, have the potential to revolutionize vector control. However, mutant alleles generated by the competing non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway, resistant to Cas9 cleavage, can interrupt the spread of gene-drive elements. We hypothesized that drives targeting genes essential for viability or reproduction also carrying recoded sequences that restore endogenous gene functionality should benefit from dominantly-acting maternal clearance of NHEJ alleles combined with recessive Mendelian culling processes. Here, we test split gene-drive (sGD) systems in Drosophila melanogaster that are inserted into essential genes required for viability (rab5, rab11, prosalpha2) or fertility (spo11).
Fig: Experimental design of the split gene-drive system in essential loci
In single generation crosses, sGDs copy with variable efficiencies and display sex-biased transmission. In multigenerational cage trials, sGDs follow distinct drive trajectories reflecting their differential tendencies to induce target chromosome damage and/or lethal/sterile mosaic Cas9-dependent phenotypes, leading to inherently confinable drive outcomes.
Terradas, G., Buchman, A.B., Bennett, J.B. et al. Inherently confinable split-drive systems in Drosophila. Nat Commun 12, 1480 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21771-7