Site-specific genetic engineering of the Anopheles gambiae y chromosome

Federica Bernardini, Roberto Galizi, Miriam Menichelli, Philippos Aris Papathanos, Vicky Dritsou, Eric Marois, Andrea Crisanti, Nikolai Windbichler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Despite its function in sex determination and its role in driving genome evolution, the Y chromosome remains poorly understood in most species. Y chromosomes are gene-poor, repeat-rich and largely heterochromatic and therefore represent a difficult target for genetic engineering. The Y chromosome of the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae appears to be involved in sex determination although very little is known about both its structure and function. Here, we characterize a transgenic strain of this mosquito species, obtained by transposon-mediated integration of a transgene construct onto the Y chromosome. Using meganuclease-induced homologous repair we introduce a site-specific recombination signal onto the Y chromosome and show that the resulting docking line can be used for secondary integration. To demonstrate its utility, we study the activity of a germ-line-specific promoter when located on the Y chromosome. We also show that Y-linked fluorescent trans-genes allow automated sex separation of this important vector species, providing the means to generate large single-sex populations. Our findings will aid studies of sex chromosome function and enable the development of male-exclusive genetic traits for vector control.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)7600-7605
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - 27 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotechnology
  • SIT


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