Pulled, pushed or failed: the demographic impact of a gene drive can change the nature of its spatial spread

L. Kläy, L. Girardin, V. Calvez and F. Débarre,  arXiv,  2022.

Understanding the temporal spread of gene drive alleles — alleles that bias their own transmission — through modeling is essential before any field experiments. In this paper, we present a deterministic reaction-diffusion model describing the interplay between demographic and allelic dynamics, in a one-dimensional spatial context. We focused on the traveling wave solutions, and more specifically, on the speed of gene drive invasion (if successful). We considered various timings of gene conversion (in the zygote or in the germline) and different probabilities of gene conversion (instead of assuming 100% conversion as done in a previous work). We compared the types of propagation when the intrinsic growth rate of the population takes extreme values, either very large or very low. When it is infinitely large, the wave can be either successful or not, and, if successful, it can be either pulled or pushed, in agreement with previous studies (extended here to the case of partial conversion). In contrast, it cannot be pushed when the intrinsic growth rate is vanishing. In this case, analytical results are obtained through an insightful connection with an epidemiological SI model. We conducted extensive numerical simulations to bridge the gap between the two regimes of large and low growth rate. We conjecture that, if it is pulled in the two extreme regimes, then the wave is always pulled, and the wave speed is independent of the growth rate. This occurs for instance when the fitness cost is small enough, or when there is stable coexistence of the drive and the wild-type in the population after successful drive invasion. Our model helps delineate the conditions under which demographic dynamics can affect the spread of a gene drive.

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