Leveraging a natural murine meiotic drive to suppress invasive populations

L. Gierus, A. Birand, M. D. Bunting, G. I. Godahewa, S. G. Piltz, K. P. Oh, A. J. Piaggio, D. W. Threadgill, J. Godwin, O. Edwards, P. Cassey, J. V. Ross, T. A. A. Prowse and P. Q. Thomas,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  119:e2213308119. 2022.

Invasive rodents are a major cause of environmental damage and biodiversity loss, particularly on islands. Unlike insects, genetic biocontrol strategies including population-suppressing gene drives with biased inheritance have not been developed in mice. Here, we demonstrate a gene drive strategy (t(CRISPR)) that leverages super-Mendelian transmission of the t haplotype to spread inactivating mutations in a haplosufficient female fertility gene (Prl). Using spatially explicit individual-based in silico modeling, we show that t(CRISPR) can eradicate island populations under a range of realistic field-based parameter values. We also engineer transgenic t(CRISPR) mice that, crucially, exhibit biased transmission of the modified t haplotype and Prl mutations at levels our modeling predicts would be sufficient for eradication. This is an example of a feasible gene drive system for invasive alien rodent population control.

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