Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in mosquitoes promises future control of vectorborne diseases

Using a newly developed method to deliver gene-editing material to the ovary of an adult mosquito, researchers disabled a gene that caused its offspring on the right to be born with white, rather than dark, eyes. Image: Rasgon laboratory, Penn State

Using a newly developed method to deliver gene-editing material to the ovary of an adult mosquito, researchers disabled a gene that caused its offspring on the right to be born with white, rather than dark, eyes. Image: Rasgon laboratory, Penn State

Team: Jason Rasgon, Duverney Chaverra-Rodriguez, Vanessa Macias, Donghun Kim, Grant Hughes, Sujit Pujhari, Yasutsugu Suzuki, David Peterson, Sage McKeand

More than 700,000 people die each year from vectorborne diseases such as malaria, Zika, dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile virus, among many more, and cases of illnesses spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and other vectors tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.

One tactic Penn State researchers are investigating in order to combat the spread of vectorborne diseases is a technology to more easily manipulate gene expression in arthropods for fundamental research and other practical applications.

ReMOT Control (Receptor-Mediated Ovary Transduction of Cargo) is designed to improve CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a relatively new and revolutionary way to modify an organism’s genome by precisely delivering a DNA-cutting enzyme to a targeted region of DNA. Current approaches in arthropods rely on delivering the gene-editing Cas9 directly to eggs by embryonic microinjection, a difficult and inefficient process that works in only a small number of species. ReMOT, however, delivers the Cas9 cargo to a targeted portion of the genome by easy injection into the blood of female arthropods, where it can be introduced into the developing eggs via receptors in the ovary. They demonstrated this process by editing the eye color of mosquito offspring.

Not only does this technology have promise for more efficient and effective control of vectorborne diseases, ReMOT also drastically reduces the cost of editing genes in arthropods. This method is a substantial improvement over existing embryo-injection techniques, putting gene-editing capability into the reach of nonspecialist laboratories and potentially revolutionizing the broad application of functional arthropod genetics.

Funding

USDA NIFA and Hatch Appropriations; NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Science Foundation; Pennsylvania Department of Health using Tobacco Settlement Funds

News

New technology improves CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in mosquitoes, other species

Quote

“Whereas the microinjection apparatus can cost thousands of dollars and require extensive training to use, the equipment for ReMOT Control injections costs approximately $2, and the technique can be learned in less than an hour.” —Jason Rasgon

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Integrated Health Solutions

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Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600