Assessing potential hybridization between a hypothetical gene drive-modified Drosophila suzukii and nontarget Drosophila species

S. Wolf, J. Collatz, J. Enkerli, F. Widmer and J. Romeis,  Risk Analysis,  2023.

Genetically engineered gene drives (geGD) are potentially powerful tools for suppressing or even eradicating populations of pest insects. Before living geGD insects can be released into the environment, they must pass an environmental risk assessment to ensure that their release will not cause unacceptable harm to non-targeted entities of the environment. A key research question concerns the likelihood that nontarget species will acquire the functional GD elements; such acquisition could lead to reduced abundance or loss of those species and to a disruption of the ecosystem services they provide. The main route for gene flow is through hybridization between the geGD insect strain and closely related species that co-occur in the area of release and its expected dispersal. Using the invasive spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, as a case study, we provide a generally applicable strategy on how a combination of interspecific hybridization experiments, behavioral observations, and molecular genetic analyses can be used to assess the potential for hybridization.


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