Self-replicating gene drives that can spread deleterious alleles through animal populations have been promoted as a much needed but controversial ‘silver bullet’ for controlling invasive alien species. Homing-based drives comprise an endonuclease and a guide RNA (gRNA) that are replicated during meiosis via homologous recombination. However, their efficacy for controlling wild populations is threatened by inherent polymorphic resistance and the creation of resistance alleles via non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ)-mediated DNA repair. We used stochastic individual-based models to identify realistic gene-drive strategies capable of eradicating vertebrate pest populations (mice, rats and rabbits) on islands. One popular strategy, a sex-reversing drive that converts heterozygous females into sterile males, failed to spread and required the ongoing deployment of gene-drive carriers to achieve eradication. Under alternative strategies, multiplexed gRNAs could overcome inherent polymorphic resistance and were required for eradication success even when the probability of NHEJ was low. Strategies causing homozygotic embryonic non-viability or homozygotic female sterility produced high probabilities of eradication and were robust to NHEJ-mediated deletion of the DNA sequence between multiplexed endonuclease recognition sites. The latter two strategies also purged the gene drive when eradication failed, therefore posing lower long-term risk should animals escape beyond target islands. Multiplexing gRNAs will be necessary if this technology is to be useful for insular extirpation attempts; however, precise knowledge of homing rates will be required to design low-risk gene drives with high probabilities of eradication success.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 16 Aug 2017|
Bibliographical noteCorrection: Prowse TAA, Cassey P, Ross JV, Pfitzner C, Wittmann T, Thomas P. 2018 Correction to ‘Dodging silver bullets: good CRISPR gene-drive design is critical for eradicating exotic vertebrates’. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20182048. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.2048
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3827956.v1.
- Gene drive
- Non-homologous end joining
- Population eradication
- Resistance allele
- Island conservation