Scientists have modeled a system that may be used to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit, without the use of pesticides. In the proposed system, mosquitoes are engineered to carry two genes. The first gene causes males to transmit a toxin to females through their semen. The second gene, when expressed in females, makes them immune to this toxin. This research, published in the February 2011 issue of Genetics (http://www.genetics.org), describes a system that can be created using currently available molecular tools and could confine the spread of mosquitoes to isolated populations. It also allows the genes to be recalled if necessary.
"I hope that the results of this theoretical study will inspire molecular biologists to explore new ways of driving transgenes into populations," said John M. Marshall, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health at the Imperial College of London in the United Kingdom. "Ultimately, I hope that the application of these ideas will help move transgenic mosquito technology forward, and thereby contribute to the many efforts to reduce the prevalence of malaria and dengue fever in disease-endemic countries."
The gene transfer system was modeled using mathematical equations that describe how genetic alterations in the mosquitos' DNA are inherited from one generation to the next, and predict how these alterations will either spread or be eliminated from the population. The system has two basic componentsa toxin expressed in the semen of transgenic males that either kills female recipients or renders them infertile, and an antidote expressed in females that protects them from the effects of the toxin. An all-male release should result in population suppression because wild females that mate with transgenic males produce no offspring. A release that includes transgenic females propagat
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Genetics Society of America