TALEN-based gene disruption in the dengue vector Aedes aegypti.
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In addition to its role as the primary vector for dengue viruses, Aedes aegypti has a long history as a genetic model organism for other bloodfeeding mosquitoes, due to its ease of colonization, maintenance and reproductive productivity. Though its genome has been sequenced, functional characterization of many Ae. aegypti genes, pathways and behaviors has been slow. TALE nucleases (TALENs) have been used with great success in a number of organisms to generate site-specific DNA lesions. We evaluated the ability of a TALEN pair to target the Ae. aegypti kmo gene, whose protein product is essential in the production of eye pigmentation. Following injection into pre-blastoderm embryos, 20-40% of fertile survivors produced kmo alleles that failed to complement an existing kh(w) mutation. Most of these individuals produced more than 20% white-eyed progeny, with some producing up to 75%. Mutant alleles were associated with lesions of 1-7 bp specifically at the selected target site. White-eyed individuals could also be recovered following a blind intercross of G1 progeny, yielding several new white-eyed strains in the genetic background of the sequenced Liverpool strain. We conclude that TALENs are highly active in the Ae. aegypti germline, and have the potential to transform how reverse genetic experiments are performed in this important disease vector.