Controlling invasive rodents using genetic technology

Development of CRISPR gene drive technology in mice
Controlling invasive rodents using genetic technology
Project Status: In progress
Project administered by: The University of Adelaide

Gene drives are genetic elements that “break” the rules of genetics by promoting their own inheritance.

While many natural gene drives have been identified, the recent emergence of CRISPR DNA editing technology has enabled synthetic gene drives to be developed in insects such as mosquitoes for control of important human pathogens like malaria.

This powerful technology also has significant potential for controlling invasive mouse populations that spread zoonotic or other disease and cause species extinction and loss of agricultural productivity.

This team uses innovative approaches to safely develop gene drive technology in rodents, initially focusing on mice.

CRISPR gene drives are small DNA “cassettes” that encode CRISPR machinery (Cas9 and gRNAs) and are located at a specific position in the genome. Once activated, the gene drive element replicates itself ensuring that it is passed on to the next generation. Alternative gene drive strategies such as sex chromosome shredding, to sex bias a population so that it is not sustainable, have also been proposed.

While gene drives have recently been published in insects and yeast, they have not yet been developed in other species.

The aim of this project is to develop gene drive technology in mice. Using state-of-the-art molecular genetic approaches, the team is developing transgenic mice carrying gene drive elements.

A range of approaches are being safely tested including different endonuclease platforms, target site strategies (e.g. fertility and viability genes) and suppression strategies (homing versus sex bias).

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council