Targeting female flight for genetic control of mosquitoes

Aedes aegypti Act4 is a paralog of the Drosophila melanogaster indirect flight muscle actin gene Act88F. Act88F has been shown to be haploinsufficient for flight in both males and females (amorphic mutants are dominant). Whereas Act88F is expressed in indirect flight muscles of both males and females, expression of Act4 is substantially female-specific. We therefore used CRISPR/Cas9 and homology directed repair to examine the phenotype of Act4 mutants in two Culicine mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus. A screen for dominant female-flightless mutants in Cx. quinquefasciatus identified one such mutant associated with a six base pair deletion in the CxAct4 coding region. A similar screen in Ae. aegypti identified no dominant mutants. Disruption of the AeAct4 gene by homology-dependent insertion of a fluorescent protein marker cassette gave a recessive female-flightless phenotype in Ae. aegypti. Reproducing the six-base deletion from Cx. quinquefasciatus in Ae. aegypti using oligo-directed mutagenesis generated dominant female-flightless mutants and identified additional dominant female-flightless mutants with other in-frame insertions or deletions. Our data indicate that loss of function mutations in the AeAct4 gene are recessive but that short in-frame deletions produce dominant-negative versions of the AeAct4 protein that interfere with flight muscle function. This makes Act4 an interesting candidate for genetic control methods, particularly population-suppression gene drives targeting female viability/fertility.

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