Modeling-informed Engineered Genetic Incompatibility strategies to overcome resistance in the invasive Drosophila suzukii

A. Sychla, N. R. Feltman, W. D. Hutchison and M. J. Smanski,  Frontiers in Insect Science,  2. 2022.

Engineered Genetic Incompatibility (EGI) is an engineered extreme underdominance genetic system wherein hybrid animals are not viable, functioning as a synthetic speciation event. There are several strategies in which EGI could be leveraged for genetic biocontrol of pest populations. We used an agent-based model of Drosophila suzukii (Spotted Wing Drosophila) to determine how EGI would fare with high rates of endemic genetic resistance alleles. We discovered a surprising failure mode wherein field-generated females convert an incompatible male release program into a population replacement gene drive. Local suppression could still be attained in two seasons by tailoring the release strategy to take advantage of this effect, or alternatively in one season by altering the genetic design of release agents. We show in this work that data from modeling can be utilized to recognize unexpected emergent phenomena and a priori inform genetic biocontrol treatment design to increase efficacy.

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