CRISPR-mediated germline mutagenesis for genetic sterilization of Anopheles gambiae males

A. L. Smidler, D. G. Paton, G. M. Church, W. R. Shaw and F. Catteruccia,  bioRxiv,  2023.06.13.544841. 2023.

Rapid spread of insecticide resistance among anopheline mosquitoes threatens malaria elimination efforts, necessitating development of alternative vector control technologies. Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been successfully implemented in multiple insect pests to suppress field populations by the release of large numbers of sterile males, yet it has proven difficult to adapt to Anopheles vectors. Here we outline adaptation of a CRISPR-based genetic sterilization system to selectively ablate male sperm cells in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae. We achieve robust mosaic biallelic mutagenesis of zero population growth (zpg, a gene essential for differentiation of germ cells) in F1 individuals after intercrossing a germline-expressing Cas9 transgenic line to a line expressing zpg-targeting gRNAs. Approximately 95% of mutagenized males display complete genetic sterilization, and cause similarly high levels of infertility in their female mates. Using a fluorescence reporter that allows detection of the germline leads to a 100% accurate selection of spermless males, improving the system. These males cause a striking reduction in mosquito population size when released at field-like frequencies in competition cages against wild type males. These findings demonstrate that such a genetic system could be adopted for SIT against important malaria vectors.Competing Interest StatementD.P, R.S. and F.C. report no conflicts of interest. A.S. and K.E. hold a patent on the competing technology (Patent no. WO2015105928A1). A.S. is a co-filer on a patent application for a complementary technology (SD2022-357). G.C. lists no competing interests for this publication. For a complete list of G.C. financial interests, please visit arep.med.harvard.edu/gmc/tech.html.


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