Natural gene drives offer potential pathogen control strategies in plants

D. M. Gardiner, A. Rusu, L. Barrett, G. C. Hunter and K. Kazan,  bioRxiv,  2020.

Globally, fungal pathogens cause enormous crop losses and current control practices are not always effective, economical or environmentally sustainable. Tools enabling genetic management of wild pathogen populations could potentially solve many problems associated with plant diseases. A natural gene drive from a heterologous species can be used in the globally important cereal pathogen, Fusarium graminearum, to remove pathogenic traits from contained populations of the fungus. The gene drive element became fixed in a freely crossing populations in only three generations. Repeat induce point mutation, a natural genome defence mechanism in fungi, may be useful to recall the gene drive following release, should a failsafe mechanism be required. We propose that gene drive technology is a potential tool to control plant pathogens.