Engineered Gene Drives for Pest Management

G. Miglani,  Biotechnology for Plant Disease Diagnosis and Management,  2020.

Genes in sexually reproducing organisms normally have, on average, a 50% chance of being inherited, but some genes have a higher chance of being inherited. These genes can increase in relative frequency in a population even if they reduce the odds that each organism will reproduce. Aided by technological advances, scientists are investigating how populations might be altered by adding, disrupting, or editing genes or suppressed by propagating traits that reduce reproductive capacity. Due to the discovery of gene-drive systems in insects and with the development of gene-drive technology using engineered site-specific nucleases, the last couple of years have seen a profound rise in excitement about the many possible uses of gene drive systems (GDSs). GDSs are capable of altering the traits of wild populations and associated ecosystems. A gene drive biases the transmission of a particular allele of a gene such that it is inherited at a greater frequency than by random assortment. A consequence of gene drives is an increased frequency of specific genetic elements or alleles and their accelerated spread throughout populations over successive generations. Here we will first describe the discovery, characteristics, types and mechanisms of GDSs. Next we will deal with development of gene-drive technology and its applications with special reference to their use in pest management and progresses that have so far been made to apply gene-drive systems in this area of research followed by limitations, safety and regulatory aspects of this technology. Finally, we will take up some key questions and future prospects of this important but still under-refinement technology.

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