Disrupting female flight in the vector Aedes aegypti

O'Leary, S. and Z. N. Adelman,  bioRxiv,  862300:862300. 2019.

Aedes aegypti is a vector of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Current vector control strategies such as community engagement, source reduction, and insecticides have not been sufficient to prevent viral outbreaks. Thus, interest in novel strategies involving genetic engineering is growing. Female mosquitoes rely on flight to mate with males and obtain a bloodmeal from a host. We hypothesized that knockout of genes specifically expressed in female mosquitoes associated with the indirect flight muscles would result in a flightless female mosquito. With the CRISPR-Cas9 system, we performed embryonic microinjections of Cas9 protein and guide RNAs specific to genes hypothesized to control flight in mosquitoes, and have obtained genetic knockouts in several genes specifically expressed in the flight-muscle, including those specific to female flight muscle. Analysis of the phenotype of these female-specific gene knockout mutants resulted in flightless females and flying males. While further assessment is required, this work lays the groundwork for a mechanism of population control that is female-specific for the Ae. aegypti vector.