Synthetic sex ratio distorters based on CRISPR for the control of harmful insect populations

Fasulo, B., Meccariello, A., Papathanos, P. A., and Windbichler, N.,  AREA-WIDE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: Development and Field Application,  2021.

Since the overall reproductive output of a population is typically determined by the fertility of its females, which are rate-limiting in gamete production, a successful way to genetically control a population should involve artificially biasing the sex ratio towards males. In male heterogametic species, this could be achieved by the expression of a transgene-encoded endonuclease during spermatogenesis that would target and “shred” the X chromosome at several loci. This would prevent the transmission of X chromosome bearing gametes to the progeny, generating only males. Recent developments in molecular and synthetic biology have provided genome editing tools with great potential to engineer the genome of different species. Given the targeting flexibility of CRISPR-based endonucleases, it may now be possible to test whether X chromosome shredding has the potential to become a universal strategy to genetically control a wide variety of insect pests, of both agricultural and public health relevance.

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