A New CRISPR-Driven Technology for Gene Drive in Plants

Lori Dajose,  CalTech,  2024.

Spreading a specific genetic trait through a population, even if that trait does not benefit those who carry it, is the purpose of a “gene drive.” Gene drives can be used for many different applications. These are divided into two broad categories: population modification and population suppression. Population modification can make mosquitos immune to, and therefore unable to spread, malaria, or make a crop more heat-tolerant in anticipation of climate change. Population suppression can be used to bring about local reduction or elimination of a weed or invasive species. But any gene editing program needs to have strict built-in controls to keep the modifications localized to a specific area and to prevent other species from accidentally inheriting modified genes.

Now, Caltech researchers have developed a new gene drive technology, called ClvR (pronounced “cleaver”), that can be specifically customized to plant species, preventing accidental gene editing in cross-pollination situations. Crucially, the technology can be designed to be self-limiting, only spreading the desired genes for a limited number of generations, thereby limiting their spread in time and space. The work is the first engineered gene drive in plants and the first to enable species-specific modification as well as the first to act at the level of plant sex cells.


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