Evolutionary simulations of Z-linked suppression gene drives

Some proposed Z-linked suppression gene drives.


Synthetic gene drives may soon be used to suppress or eliminate populations of disease vectors, pathogens, invasive species, and agricultural pests. Recent proposals have focused on using Z-linked gene drives to control species with ZW sex determination, which include Lepidopteran pests, parasitic trematodes, and cane toads. These proposals include Z-linked ‘W-shredders’, which would suppress populations by cleaving the W chromosome and causing females to produce only sons, as well as Z-linked female-sterilizing gene drives. Here, I use eco-evolutionary simulations to evaluate the potential of some proposed Z-linked gene drives, and to produce recommendations regarding their design and use. The simulations show that W-shredders are likely to be highly effective at eradicating populations provided that resistance to W-shredding cannot evolve. However, W-shredder alleles can invade populations from very low frequencies, making it difficult to eliminate specific populations while leaving nearby populations untouched; this issue may restrict their possible uses.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B