Researchers at UH Hilo are observing injected eggs; the next step will be to rear them to see if they now have stable genetic material that could be passed to offspring. The research is being done strictly in laboratory colonies, not in the wild.
A research group at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is currently completing construction of the full gene drive system of the Hawai‘i-sourced southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus), and plan to use CRISPR technology to insert it alongside an eye-color phenotype marker. CRISPR allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
Last year, the Conservation Genomics Research Group, based at UH Hilo, genetically modified Culex to test stable incorporation of components of a reversible gene drive system (note two genes were inserted, not the full drive system). This was the thesis work of graduate student Jared Nishimoto while studying at the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program at UH Hilo. Nishimoto’s thesis, which he defended in July 2019, was also developed into an undergraduate teaching lab module. (See more about this work in the video below.)
All of this mosquito work at UH Hilo is being done strictly in laboratory colonies, not in the wild.
The group began using CRISPR technology in the lab earlier this year, and some early results show white-eyed Culex pupae. See photos below: One photo is a wild type shown for comparison; it has black eye spots. The two other photos are of injected eggs; the next step will be to rear them to see if they have a stable germline modification in the cells that have genetic material that could be passed to offspring. Previous modification was germline stable.
Once the research team has a high quality reference genome data (sequencing is underway), they will be able to complete the gene drive construct and start working to incorporate it into the lab colony.
See post at the UH Hilo Department of Biology news site.