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VecSyn Report Summary

Project ID: 335724
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - VECSYN (Synthetic species of the mosquito vectors of human disease: from hybrid genetics to a new type of vector control)

The generation of artificial reproductive barriers and hence of new synthetic species has many potential applications ranging from biosafety to the control of disease vectors such as mosquitoes. The main aim of this project was to establish a generalizable approach by which artificial reproductive boundaries could be rationally engineered. Using CRISPR/Cas9 synthetic transcriptional activators (STAs) and endonucleases (SEs) we have now demonstrated both steps required to achieve this in the fly, i.e. we have shown that STAs can miss-activate endogenous genes leading to complete embryonic lethality and that SE-induced gene editing can protect against miss-activation. We have also characterized target genes and regulatory regions in Anopheles gambiae acting in embryogenesis, the building blocks for such a system. A second objective of the project was to characterize the biology of mosquito hybrids. Here our results have lead us to focus on the specific role of the Y chromosome in hybrid biology. We contributed to the initial characterization of the Y in 5 different Anopheles species and since then genetically labelled a Y chromsome from one species (Anopheles gambiae) and experimentally introgressed it into another species (Anopheles arabiensis) and are studying the resulting hybrid incompatibilities. Additionally we have contributed to the first draft genome of Aedes albopictus as well as the characterization of synthetic sex ratio distortion and gene drive systems in Anopheles gambiae. These advances are all directly or indirectly linked to the future of genetic control of these important mosquito vector species.

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United Kingdom
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