Population dynamics of underdominance gene drive systems in continuous space

Champer, JZ, Joanna; Champer, Sam; Liu, Jingxian; Messer, Philipp W.,  bioRxiv,  449355:1-23. 2018.

Underdominance gene drive systems promise a mechanism for rapidly spreading payload alleles through a local population while otherwise remaining confined, unable to spread into neighboring populations due to their frequency-dependent dynamics. Such systems could provide a new tool in the fight against vector-borne diseases by disseminating transgenic payloads through vector populations. If local confinement can indeed be achieved, the decision-making process for the release of such constructs would likely be considerably simpler compared to other gene drive mechanisms such as CRISPR homing drives. So far, the confinement ability of underdominance systems has only been demonstrated in models of panmictic populations linked by migration. How such systems would behave in realistic populations where individuals move over continuous space remains largely unknown. Here, we study several underdominance systems in continuous-space population models and show that their dynamics are drastically altered from those in panmictic populations. Specifically, we find that all underdominance systems we studied can fail to persist in such environments, even after successful local establishment. At the same time, we find that a two-locus two-toxin-antitoxin system can still successfully invade neighboring populations in many scenarios even under weak migration. This suggests that the parameter space for underdominance systems to both establish in a given region and remain confined to that region would likely be highly limited. Overall, these results indicate that spatial context must be considered when assessing strategies for the deployment of underdominance systems.