CRISPR-based homing gene drives have sparked both enthusiasm and deep concerns due to their potential for genetically altering entire species. This raises the question about our ability to prevent the unintended spread of such drives from the laboratory into a natural population. Here, we experimentally demonstrate the suitability of synthetic target site drives as well as split drives as flexible safeguarding strategies for gene drive experiments by showing that their performance closely resembles that of standard homing drives in Drosophila melanogaster. Using our split drive system, we further find that maternal deposition of both Cas9 and gRNA is required to form resistance alleles in the early embryo and that maternally-deposited Cas9 alone can power germline drive conversion in individuals that lack a genomic source of Cas9.
All data generated are available in Supplementary file 2.
- Jackson Champer
- Andrew G Clark
- Philipp W Messer
- Jackson Champer
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Kevin M Esvelt, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
© 2019, Champer et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Hybridization is a major evolutionary force that can erode genetic differentiation between species, whereas reproductive isolation maintains such differentiation. In studying a hybrid zone between the swallowtail butterflies Papilio syfanius and Papilio maackii (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae), we made the unexpected discovery that genomic substitution rates are unequal between the parental species. This phenomenon creates a novel process in hybridization, where genomic regions most affected by gene flow evolve at similar rates between species, while genomic regions with strong reproductive isolation evolve at species-specific rates. Thus, hybridization mixes evolutionary rates in a way similar to its effect on genetic ancestry. Using coalescent theory, we show that the rate-mixing process provides distinct information about levels of gene flow across different parts of genomes, and the degree of rate-mixing can be predicted quantitatively from relative sequence divergence () between the hybridizing species at equilibrium. Overall, we demonstrate that reproductive isolation maintains not only genomic differentiation, but also the rate at which differentiation accumulates. Thus, asymmetric rates of evolution provide an additional signature of loci involved in reproductive isolation.
Previously, we described a large collection of Drosophila strains that each carry an artificial exon containing a T2AGAL4 cassette inserted in an intron of a target gene based on CRISPR-mediated homologous recombination. These alleles permit numerous applications and have proven to be very useful. Initially, the homologous recombination-based donor constructs had long homology arms (>500 bps) to promote precise integration of large constructs (>5 kb). Recently, we showed that in vivo linearization of the donor constructs enables insertion of large artificial exons in introns using short homology arms (100–200 bps). Shorter homology arms make it feasible to commercially synthesize homology donors and minimize the cloning steps for donor construct generation. Unfortunately, about 58% of Drosophila genes lack a suitable coding intron for integration of artificial exons in all of the annotated isoforms. Here, we report the development of new set of constructs that allow the replacement of the coding region of genes that lack suitable introns with a KozakGAL4 cassette, generating a knock-out/knock-in allele that expresses GAL4 similarly as the targeted gene. We also developed custom vector backbones to further facilitate and improve transgenesis. Synthesis of homology donor constructs in custom plasmid backbones that contain the target gene sgRNA obviates the need to inject a separate sgRNA plasmid and significantly increases the transgenesis efficiency. These upgrades will enable the targeting of nearly every fly gene, regardless of exon–intron structure, with a 70–80% success rate.