Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-09-14 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2004373117 Jackson Champer, Emily Yang, Esther Lee, Jingxian Liu, Andrew G. Clark, Philipp W. Messer
Engineered gene drives are being explored as a new strategy in the fight against vector-borne diseases due to their potential for rapidly spreading genetic modifications through a population. However, CRISPR-based homing gene drives proposed for this purpose have faced a major obstacle in the formation of resistance alleles that prevent Cas9 cleavage. Here, we present a homing drive in Drosophila melanogaster that reduces the prevalence of resistance alleles below detectable levels by targeting a haplolethal gene with two guide RNAs (gRNAs) while also providing a rescue allele. Resistance alleles that form by end-joining repair typically disrupt the haplolethal target gene and are thus removed from the population because individuals that carry them are nonviable. We demonstrate that our drive is highly efficient, with 91% of the progeny of drive heterozygotes inheriting the drive allele and with no functional resistance alleles observed in the remainder. In a large cage experiment, the drive allele successfully spread to all individuals within a few generations. These results show that a haplolethal homing drive can provide an effective tool for targeted genetic modification of entire populations.