Performance characteristics allow for confinement of a CRISPR toxin-antidote gene drive designed for population suppression

S. Zhang and J. Champer,  bioRxiv,  2022.12.13.520356. 2022.

Gene drives alleles that can bias their own inheritance are a promising way to engineer populations for control of disease vectors, invasive species, and agricultural pests. Recent advancements in the field have yielded successful examples of powerful suppression type drives and confined modification type drives, but developing confined suppression drives has proven more difficult. This is because the necessary power for strong suppression is often incompatible with the characteristics needed for drive confinement. However, one type of CRISPR toxin-antidote drive may be strong enough and confined, the TADE (Toxin-Antidote Dominant Embryo) suppression drive. By disrupting a haplolethal target gene and a haplosufficient female fertility gene, this drive quickly eliminates wild-type alleles and eventually induces population suppression. It has been shown to perform effectively in panmictic populations. However, confinement in spatial scenarios may be substantially different. Here, we use a reaction-diffusion model to assess the performance of TADE suppression drive in continuous space. We measure the drive wave advance speed while varying several performance parameters and find that moderate fitness costs or embryo cutting (from maternally deposited nuclease) can eliminate the drive’s ability to form a wave of advance. We assess the release size required for the drive to propagate, and finally, we investigate migration corridor scenarios. Depending on the corridor size and dispersal, it is often possible for the drive to suppress one population and then persist in the corridor without invading the second population. This prevents re-invasion by wild-type, which may be a particularly desirable outcome in some scenarios. Thus, even imperfect variants of TADE suppression drive may be excellent candidates for confined population suppression.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

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