Daisy-chain gene drives: The role of low cut-rate, resistance mutations, and maternal deposition

S. A. N. Verkuijl, M. A. E. Anderson, L. Alphey and M. B. Bonsall,  PLOS Genetics,  18:e1010370. 2022.

Reducing the harm of pest species by the introgression of traits into a wild population is often limited by the difficulties of mass rearing and release of modified individuals. Gene drives present an opportunity to substantially reduce the release frequencies required to spread a particular modification. However, uniform modification of a target species is, with a few specific exceptions, not necessary or desirable. Self-limiting gene drives, such as daisy-chain gene drives, have been widely discussed as a potential solution, allowing the invasiveness of a drive release to be tuned to the target population. Here, we investigate through computational modelling how daisy-chain gene drives perform when subjected to commonly observed inefficiencies associated with CRISPR-Cas9-based inheritance biasing. Compared to a self-perpetuating drive, daisy-chain gene drives are sensitive to factors that cause their separate elements to segregate prematurely. In particular, a reduction in the DNA cut-rate and an increase in the formation of resistance alleles. We find that the effect of inefficiencies in the drive mechanism is generally more pronounced when the drive is at low frequencies. With low rates of migration, this substantially reduces daisy-chain gene drives spread into a neighbouring non-target population.

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