Novel CRISPR/Cas9 gene drive constructs reveal insights into mechanisms of resistance allele formation and drive efficiency in genetically diverse populations

Champer, JR, Riona; Oh, Suh Yeon; Liu, Chen; Liu, Jingxian; Clark, Andrew G.; Messer, Philipp W.,  PLOS Genetics,  13:e1006796. 2017.

Author summary Gene drive systems provide a wide array of potential applications, including new strategies for the control of vector-borne diseases. For example, a functioning gene drive system could rapidly spread a genetically modified allele designed to reduce pathogen transmission throughout a vector population. The recently developed CRISPR/Cas9-based gene drive mechanism works by converting wild type alleles to drive alleles in heterozygotes via cleavage and homology-directed repair. However, resistance alleles that are unable to be converted to drive alleles can also be generated during this process, which may pose a major obstacle to the practical use of such gene drives. In our study, we developed two CRISPR/Cas9 gene drive constructs using different promoters and target sites in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. We observed that these constructs produced resistance alleles at high rates both in the germline and post-fertilization in the embryo. Additionally, conversion efficiency and resistance allele formation rates varied substantially among genetically diverse fly lines. Overall, we conclude that new gene drive approaches will be necessary to reduce the formation of resistance alleles, particularly in genetically diverse natural populations.