Synthetically engineered Medea gene drive system in the worldwide crop pest Drosophila suzukii

Buchman, AM, John M.; Ostrovski, Dennis; Yang, Ting; Akbari, Omar S.,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,  115:4725-4730. 2018.

Here we describe a fully functional gene drive system constructed in a major worldwide crop pest, Drosophila suzukii. This system is composed of a synthetic Medea drive with a maternal miRNA “toxin” and a zygotic “antidote,” and we demonstrate that it can bias inheritance with 100% efficiency and can persist in a population given high release frequencies. We discuss how such a system may be used to suppress D. suzukii populations or render them harmless to target crops.Synthetic gene drive systems possess enormous potential to replace, alter, or suppress wild populations of significant disease vectors and crop pests; however, their utility in diverse populations remains to be demonstrated. Here, we report the creation of a synthetic Medea gene drive system in a major worldwide crop pest, Drosophila suzukii. We demonstrate that this drive system, based on an engineered maternal “toxin” coupled with a linked embryonic “antidote,” is capable of biasing Mendelian inheritance rates with up to 100% efficiency. However, we find that drive resistance, resulting from naturally occurring genetic variation and associated fitness costs, can be selected for and hinder the spread of such a drive. Despite this, our results suggest that this gene drive could maintain itself at high frequencies in a wild population and spread to fixation if either its fitness costs or toxin resistance were reduced, providing a clear path forward for developing future such systems in this pest.