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Keywords:

  • Antidote;
  • lepidopteron pests;
  • population replacement;
  • population suppression;
  • toxin;
  • transgenic mosquitoes

Gene drive systems are genetic elements capable of spreading into a population even if they confer a fitness cost to their host. We consider a class of drive systems consisting of a chromosomally located, linked cluster of genes, the presence of which renders specific classes of offspring arising from specific parental crosses unviable. Under permissive conditions, a number of these elements are capable of distorting the offspring ratio in their favor. We use a population genetic framework to derive conditions under which these elements spread to fixation in a population or induce a population crash. Many of these systems can be engineered using combinations of toxin and antidote genes, analogous to Medea, which consists of a maternal toxin and zygotic antidote. The majority of toxin–antidote drive systems require a critical frequency to be exceeded before they spread into a population. Of particular interest, a Z-linked Medea construct with a recessive antidote is expected to induce an all-male population crash for release frequencies above 50%. We suggest molecular tools that may be used to build these systems, and discuss their relevance to the control of a variety of insect pest species, including mosquito vectors of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.