Overriding Mendelian inheritance in Arabidopsis with a CRISPR toxin-antidote gene drive that impairs pollen germination

L. Yang, J. Bingke, C. Jackson and Q. Wenfeng,  bioRxiv,  2023.10.10.561637. 2023.

Synthetic gene drives, inspired by natural selfish genetic elements, present transformative potential for disseminating traits that benefit humans throughout wild populations, irrespective of potential fitness costs. Here, we constructed a gene drive system called CRISPR-Assisted Inheritance utilizing NPG1 (CAIN), which employs a toxin-antidote mechanism in the male germline to override Mendelian inheritance in plants. Specifically, a gRNA-Cas9 cassette targets the essential No Pollen Germination 1 (NPG1) gene, serving as the toxin to block pollen germination. A recoded, CRISPR-resistant copy of NPG1 serves as the antidote, providing rescue only in pollen cells that carry the drive. To limit potential consequences of inadvertent release, we used self-pollinating Arabidopsis thaliana as a model. The drive demonstrated a robust 88-99% transmission rate over two successive generations, producing minimal resistance alleles that are unlikely to inhibit drive spread. Our study provides a strong basis for rapid genetic modification or suppression of outcrossing plant populations.

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