A CRISPR-Cas9 sex-ratio distortion system for genetic control

Roberto Galizi, Andrew Hammond, Kyros Kyrou, Chrysanthi Taxiarchi, Federica Bernardini, Samantha M. O'Loughlin, Philippos Aris Papathanos, Tony Nolan, Nikolai Windbichler*, Andrea Crisanti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Genetic control aims to reduce the ability of insect pest populations to cause harm via the release of modified insects. One strategy is to bias the reproductive sex ratio towards males so that a population decreases in size or is eliminated altogether due to a lack of females. We have shown previously that sex ratio distortion can be generated synthetically in the main human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, by selectively destroying the X-chromosome during spermatogenesis, through the activity of a naturally-occurring endonuclease that targets a repetitive rDNA sequence highly-conserved in a wide range of organisms. Here we describe a CRISPR-Cas9 sex distortion system that targets ribosomal sequences restricted to the member species of the Anopheles gambiae complex. Expression of Cas9 during spermatogenesis resulted in RNA-guided shredding of the X-chromosome during male meiosis and produced extreme male bias among progeny in the absence of any significant reduction in fertility. The flexibility of CRISPR-Cas9 combined with the availability of genomic data for a range of insects renders this strategy broadly applicable for the species-specific control of any pest or vector species with an XY sex-determination system by targeting sequences exclusive to the female sex chromosome.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number31139
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 3 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

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© The Author(s) 2016.


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