Identification and functional analysis of Cochliomyia hominivorax U6 gene promoters

R. Novas, T. Basika, M. E. Williamson, P. Fresia, A. Menchaca and M. J. Scott,  Insect Molecular Biology,  2023.

The New World screwworm, Cochliomyia hominivorax, is an obligate parasite, which is a major pest of livestock. While the sterile insect technique was used very successfully to eradicate C. hominivorax from North and Central America, more cost-effective genetic methods will likely be needed in South America. The recent development of CRISPR/Cas9-based genetic approaches, such as homing gene drive, could provide a very efficient means for the suppression of C. hominivorax populations. One component of a drive system is the guide RNA(s) driven by a U6 gene promoter. Here, we have developed an in vivo assay to evaluate the activity of the promoters from seven C. hominivorax U6 genes. Embryos from the related blowfly Lucilia cuprina were injected with plasmid DNA containing a U6-promoter-guide RNA construct and a source of Cas9, either protein or plasmid DNA. Activity was assessed by the number of site-specific mutations in the targeted gene in hatched larvae. One promoter, Chom U6_b, showed the highest activity. These U6 gene promoters could be used to build CRISPR/Cas9-based genetic systems for the control of C. hominivorax.

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