Development and testing of a novel killer–rescue self-limiting gene drive system in Drosophila melanogaster

S. H. Webster, M. R. Vella and M. J. Scott,  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  287:20192994. 2020.

Here we report the development and testing of a novel self-limiting gene drive system, Killer–Rescue (K–R), in Drosophila melanogaster. This system is composed of an autoregulated Gal4 Killer (K) and a Gal4-activated Gal80 Rescue (R). Overexpression of Gal4 is lethal, but in the presence of R activation of Gal80 leads to much lower levels of Gal4 and rescue of lethality. We demonstrate that with a single 2 : 1 engineered to wild-type release, K drives R through the population and after nine generations, more than 98% of the population carry R and less than 2% of the population are wild-type flies. We discuss how this simple K–R gene drive system may be readily adapted for population replacement in a human health pest, Aedes aegypti, or for population suppression in an agricultural pest, Drosophila suzukii.