Viral gene drive in herpesviruses

M. Walter and E. Verdin,  Nature Communications,  11:4884. 2020.

Gene drives are genetic modifications designed to propagate in a population with high efficiency. Current gene drive strategies rely on sexual reproduction and are thought to be restricted to sexual organisms. Here, we report on a gene drive system that allows the spread of an engineered trait in populations of DNA viruses and, in particular, herpesviruses. We describe the successful transmission of a gene drive sequence between distinct strains of human cytomegalovirus (human herpesvirus 5) and show that gene drive viruses can efficiently target and replace wildtype populations in cell culture experiments. Moreover, by targeting sequences necessary for viral replication, our results indicate that a viral gene drive can be used as a strategy to suppress a viral infection. Taken together, this work offers a proof of principle for the design of a gene drive in viruses.

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