Rescue by gene swamping as a gene drive deployment strategy

K. D. Harris and G. Greenbaum,  bioRxiv,  2022.03.08.483503. 2022.

Gene drives are genetic constructs that can spread deleterious alleles with potential application to population suppression of harmful species. Given that a gene drive can potentially spill over to other populations or even other species, control measures and fail-safes strategies must be considered. Gene drives are designed to generate a rapid demographic decline, while at the same time generating a dynamic change in the population’s genetics. Since these evolutionary and demographic processes are linked and are expected to occur at a similar time-scale during gene drive spread, feedback between these processes may significantly affect the outcome of deployment. To study this feedback and to understand how it affects gene drive spillovers, we developed a gene drive model that combines evolutionary and demographic dynamics in a two-population setting. The model demonstrates how feedback between evolutionary and demographic dynamics can generate additional outcomes to those generated by the evolutionary dynamics alone. We identify an outcome of particular interest, where the short-term suppression of the target population is followed by gene swamping and loss of the gene drive. This outcome could be useful for designing gene drive deployments that temporarily suppress the population, but ultimately do not remain in the population. Using our model, we demonstrate the robustness of this outcome to spillover and to the evolution of resistance, and suggest that it could be used as a fail-safe strategy for gene drive deployment.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

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