Molecular safeguarding of CRISPR gene drive experiments

Champer, JC, Joan; Lee, Yoo Lim; Liu, Chen; Yang, Emily; Wen, Zhaoxin; Clark, Andrew G.; Messer, Philipp W.,  eLife,  8:e41439. 2019.

CRISPR-based homing gene drives have sparked both enthusiasm and deep concerns due to their potential for genetically altering entire species. This raises the question about our ability to prevent the unintended spread of such drives from the laboratory into a natural population. Here, we experimentally demonstrate the suitability of synthetic target site drives as well as split drives as flexible safeguarding strategies for gene drive experiments by showing that their performance closely resembles that of standard homing drives in Drosophila melanogaster. Using our split drive system, we further find that maternal deposition of both Cas9 and gRNA is required to form resistance alleles in the early embryo and that maternally-deposited Cas9 alone can power germline drive conversion in individuals that lack a genomic source of Cas9.