Omar Akbari

Omar Akbari
University of California, San Diego | UCSD · Division of Biological Sciences

Ph.D.

About

175
Publications
22,446
Reads
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4,017
Citations
Additional affiliations
July 2016 - present
University of California, Riverside
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
June 2009 - present
California Institute of Technology
Position
  • Senior Postdoctoral Scholar
December 2008 - May 2009
University of Nevada, Reno
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (175)
Preprint
Full-text available
As a major insect vector of multiple arboviruses, Aedes aegypti poses a significant global health and economic burden. A number of genetic engineering tools have been exploited to understand its biology with the goal of reducing its impact. For example, current tools have focused on knocking-down RNA transcripts, inducing loss-of-function mutations...
Preprint
Full-text available
Malaria is among the world's deadliest diseases, predominantly affecting sub-Saharan Africa, and killing over half a million people annually. Controlling the principal vector, the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, as well as other anophelines, is among the most effective methods to control disease spread. Here we develop an innovative genetic population...
Preprint
Full-text available
Heat shock inducible expression of genes through the use of heat inducible promoters is commonly used in research despite leaky expression of downstream genes of interest without targeted induction (i.e. heat shock). The development of non-leaky inducible expression systems are of broad interest for both basic and applied studies, to precisely cont...
Chapter
CRISPR-mediated genome engineering technologies have been adapted to a wide variety of organisms with high efficiency and specificity. The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegyptiAedes aegypti, is one such organism. It is also responsible for transmitting a wide variety of deadly viruses including Dengue, Zika, Yellow fever, and Chikungunya. The key to...
Preprint
Multiple Wolbachia strains can block pathogen infection, replication, and/or transmission in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes under both laboratory and field conditions. However, Wolbachia effects on pathogens can be highly variable across systems and the factors governing this variability are not well understood. It is increasingly clear that the mosquito...
Article
Full-text available
Scientists developing gene drive mosquitoes for vector control must understand how residents of affected areas regard both the problem of mosquito-borne disease and the potential solutions offered by gene drive. This study represents an experiment in public engagement at an early stage of technology development, intended to inform lab scientists ab...
Article
Full-text available
The areas where dengue virus (DENV) is endemic have expanded rapidly, driven in part by the global spread of Aedes species, which act as disease vectors. DENV replicates in the mosquito midgut and is disseminated to the mosquito’s salivary glands for amplification. Thus, blocking virus infection or replication in the tissues of the mosquito may be...
Article
Full-text available
CRISPR-based genetic engineering tools aimed to bias sex ratios, or drive effector genes into animal populations, often integrate the transgenes into autosomal chromosomes. However, in species with heterogametic sex chromsomes (e.g. XY, ZW), sex linkage of endonucleases could be beneficial to drive the expression in a sex-specific manner to produce...
Article
Releases of sterile males are the gold standard for many insect population control programs, and precise sex sorting to remove females prior to male releases is essential to the success of these operations. To advance traditional methods for scaling the generation of sterile males, we previously described a CRISPR-mediated precision-guided sterile...
Article
Full-text available
Parasitic nematodes cause significant morbidity and mortality globally. Excretory/secretory products (ESPs) such as fatty acid- and retinol- binding proteins (FARs) are hypothesized to suppress host immunity during nematode infection, yet little is known about their interactions with host tissues. Leveraging the insect parasitic nematode, Steinerne...
Article
The development of an extensive toolkit for potential point-of-care diagnostics that is expeditiously adaptable to new emerging pathogens is of critical public health importance. Recently, a number of novel CRISPR-based diagnostics have been developed to detect SARS-CoV-2. Herein, we outline the development of an alternative CRISPR nucleic acid dia...
Article
Female mosquitoes use chemical and physical cues, including vision, smell, heat, and humidity, to orient toward hosts. Body odors are produced by skin resident bacteria that convert metabolites secreted in sweat into odorants that confer the characteristic body scent. Mosquitoes detect these compounds using olfactory receptors in their antennal olf...
Article
Full-text available
The cover image is based on the Research Article Spatial control of gene expression in flies using bacterially derived binary transactivation systems by Omar Akbari et al., https://doi.org/10.1111/imb.12717.
Article
Originally from Asia, Drosophila suzukii Matsumura is a global pest of economically important soft-skinned fruits. Also commonly known as spotted wing drosophila, it is largely controlled through repeated applications of broad-spectrum insecticides by which resistance has been observed in the field. There is a pressing need for a better understandi...
Article
Full-text available
The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the principal vector for arboviruses including dengue/yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika virus, infecting hundreds of millions of people annually. Unfortunately, traditional control methodologies are insufficient, so innovative control methods are needed. To complement existing measures, here we develop a molecular ge...
Article
Full-text available
In response to growing concerns regarding mosquito-borne diseases, scientists are developing novel systems of vector control. Early examples include Oxitec’s OX513A genetically-engineered mosquito and MosquitoMate’s Wolbachia-infected mosquito, and systems using ‘gene-drive’ are in development. Systems based on genetic engineering are controversial...
Article
Full-text available
Mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and malaria, pose significant global health burdens. Unfortunately, current control methods based on insecticides and environmental maintenance have fallen short of eliminating the disease burden. Scalable, deployable, genetic-based solutions are sought to reduce the transmission risk of these diseases. Patho...
Preprint
Full-text available
Releases of sterile males are the gold standard for many insect population control programs, and precise sex sorting to remove females prior to male releases is essential to the success of these operations. To advance traditional methods for scaling the generation of sterile males, we previously described a CRISPR-mediated precision-guided sterile...
Article
Full-text available
Engineered reproductive species barriers are useful for impeding gene flow and driving desirable genes into wild populations in a reversible threshold-dependent manner. However, methods to generate synthetic barriers have not been developed in advanced eukaryotes. To overcome this challenge, we engineered SPECIES (Synthetic Postzygotic barriers Exp...
Article
Significance Aedes aegypti are mosquitoes that transmit dengue and other viruses that infect millions of people annually. One approach to control Ae. aegypti is through the release of sterile males, which suppresses fertilization by fertile males following mating with sterile males. To generate sterile males, the current approach is to mutagenize m...
Article
Controlling gene expression is an instrumental tool for biotechnology, as it enables the dissection of gene function, affording precise spatial‐temporal resolution. To generate this control, binary transactivational systems have been used employing a modular activator consisting of a DNA binding domain(s) fused to activation domain(s). For fly gene...
Preprint
Full-text available
The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the principal vector for arboviruses including dengue/yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika, infecting hundreds of millions of people annually. Unfortunately, traditional control methodologies are insufficient, so innovative control methods are needed. To complement existing measures, here we develop a molecular genetic...
Preprint
Full-text available
Parasitic nematodes cause significant morbidity and mortality globally. Excretory/secretory products (ESPs) such as fatty acid- and retinol- binding proteins (FARs) are hypothesized to suppress host immunity during infection, yet little is known about their interactions with host tissues. Leveraging the insect parasitic nematode, Steinernema carpoc...
Preprint
Full-text available
Originally from Asia, Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura, 1931, Diptera: Drosophilidae) is presently a global pest of economically important soft-skinned fruits. Also commonly known as spotted wing Drosophila (SWD), it is largely controlled through repeated applications of broad-spectrum insecticides. There is a pressing need for a better understanding...
Preprint
Full-text available
The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the principal vector for arboviruses including dengue/yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika, infecting hundreds of millions of people annually. Unfortunately, traditional control methodologies are insufficient, so innovative control methods are needed. To complement existing measures, here we develop a molecular genetic...
Preprint
The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the principal vector for arboviruses including dengue/yellow fever, chikungunya, and zika, infecting hundreds of millions of people annually. Unfortunately, traditional control methodologies are insufficient, so innovative control methods are needed. To complement existing measures, here we develop a molecular genetic...
Article
Full-text available
CRISPR-based gene-drive systems, which copy themselves via gene conversion mediated by the homology-directed repair (HDR) pathway, have the potential to revolutionize vector control. However, mutant alleles generated by the competing non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway, resistant to Cas9 cleavage, can interrupt the spread of gene-drive elemen...
Article
Full-text available
Homing based gene drives, engineered using CRISPR/Cas9, have been proposed to spread desirable genes throughout populations. However, invasion of such drives can be hindered by the accumulation of resistant alleles. To limit this obstacle, we engineer a confinable population modification Home-and-Rescue (HomeR) drive in Drosophila targeting an esse...
Article
Insects naturally harbor a broad range of selfish agents that can manipulate their reproduction and development, often leading to host sex ratio distortion. Such effects directly benefit the spread of the selfish agents. These agents include two broad groups: bacterial symbionts and selfish chromosomes. Recent studies have made steady progress in u...
Article
CasRx, a member of the RNA-targeting Cas13 family, is a promising new addition of the CRISPR/Cas technologies in efficient gene transcript reduction with an attractive off-target profile at both cellular and organismal levels. It is recently reported that the CRISPR/CasRx system can be used to achieve ubiquitous and tissue-specific gene transcript...
Article
Full-text available
Although mosquitoes are major transmission vectors for pathogenic arboviruses, viral infection has little impact on mosquito health. This immunity is due in part to mosquito RNA interference (RNAi) pathways that generate antiviral small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). RNAi also maintains genome integrity by potently re...
Article
Full-text available
Gene drive organisms (GDOs), whose genomes have been genetically engineered to spread a desired allele through a population, have the potential to transform the way societies address a wide range of daunting public health and environmental challenges. The development, testing, and release of GDOs, however, are complex and often controversial. A key...
Preprint
Full-text available
RNA guided CRISPR gene drives have shown the capability of biasing transgene inheritance in multiple species. Among these, homing endonuclease drives are the most developed. In this study, we report the functioning of sds3 , bgcn , and nup50 expressed Cas9 in an Aedes aegypti homing split drive system targeting the white gene. We report their inher...
Article
The jewel wasp, Nasonia vitripennis, has become an efficient model system to study epigenetics of haplo-diploid sex determination, B-chromosome biology, host-symbiont interactions, speciation, and venom synthesis. Despite the availability of several molecular tools, including CRISPR/Cas9, functional genetic studies are still limited in this organis...
Article
Full-text available
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-spe...
Preprint
Full-text available
Controlling gene expression is an instrumental tool for biotechnology, as it enables the dissection of gene function, affording precise spatial-temporal resolution. To generate this control, binary transactivational systems have been used employing a modular activator consisting of a DNA binding domain(s) fused to activation domain(s). For fly gene...
Article
Full-text available
Background While there is wide consensus that the public should be consulted about emerging technology early in development, it is difficult to elicit public opinion about innovations unfamiliar to lay audiences. We sought public input on a program of research on genetic engineering to control mosquito vectors of disease that is led by scientists a...
Preprint
The yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti employs olfaction to locate humans. We applied CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering and neural activity mapping to define the molecular and cellular logic of how the mosquito brain is wired to detect human odorants. We determined that the breath volatile carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) is detected by the largest unit of olf...
Article
Since its first emergence from China in late 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has spread globally despite unprecedented containment efforts, resulting in a catastrophic worldwide pandemic. Successful identification and isolation of infected individuals can drastically curtail virus spread and limit outbreaks. However, during the early stages of global tr...
Preprint
Full-text available
Since its first emergence from China in late 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has spread globally despite unprecedented containment efforts, resulting in a catastrophic worldwide pandemic. Successful identification and isolation of infected individuals can drastically curtail virus spread and limit outbreaks. However, during the early stages of global tr...
Article
Full-text available
Animals face the dual threat of virus infections hijacking cellular function and transposons proliferating in germline genomes. For insects, the deeply conserved RNA interference (RNAi) pathways and other chromatin regulators provide an important line of defense against both viruses and transposons. For example, this innate immune system displays a...
Article
CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive systems possess the inherent capacity to spread progressively throughout target populations. Here we describe two self-copying (or active) guide RNA-only genetic elements, called e-CHACRs and ERACRs. These elements use Cas9 produced in trans by a gene drive either to inactivate the cas9 transgene (e-CHACRs) or to delete...
Preprint
Full-text available
CRISPR-based gene drive systems, which copy themselves based on gene conversion mediated by the homology directed repair (HDR) pathway, have potential to revolutionize vector control. However, mutant alleles generated by the competing non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway that are rendered resistant to Cas9 cleavage can interrupt the spread of...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus is globally expanding and has become the main vector for human arboviruses in Europe. With limited antiviral drugs and vaccines available, vector control is the primary approach to prevent mosquito-borne diseases. A reliable and accurate DNA sequence of the Ae. albopictus genome is essential to...
Preprint
Full-text available
Homing based gene drives, engineered using CRISPR/Cas9, have been proposed to spread desirable genes into target populations. However, spread of such drives can be hindered by the accumulation of resistance alleles. To overcome this significant obstacle, we engineer a population modification Home-and-Rescue (HomeR) drive in Drosophila melanogaster...
Preprint
Full-text available
Engineered reproductive species barriers are useful for impeding gene flow and driving desirable genes into wild populations in a reversible threshold-dependent manner. However, methods to generate synthetic barriers are lacking in advanced eukaryotes. To overcome this challenge, we engineered SPECIES ( S ynthetic P ostzygotic barriers E xploiting...
Article
Robyn Raban and Omar Akbari describe a day in the life of the mosquito insectary team at the University of California, San Diego, outlining the procedures, goals, and types of systems they are engineering to control mosquito-transmitted diseases.
Article
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing is a powerful technology to study the genetics of rising model organisms, such as the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis . However, current methods involving embryonic microinjection of CRISPR reagents are challenging. Delivery of Cas9 ribonucleoprotein into female ovaries is an alternative that has only been explored in a smal...
Article
Information about genetic engineering (GE) for vector control in the United States is disseminated primarily in English, though non-English speakers are equally, and in some geographic regions even more affected by such technologies. Non-English-speaking publics should have equal access to such information, which is especially critical when the tec...
Article
CRISPR-Cas genome editing technologies have revolutionized the fields of functional genetics and genome engineering, but with the recent discovery and optimization of RNA-targeting Cas ribonucleases, we may soon see a similar revolution in the study of RNA function and transcriptome engineering. However, to date, successful proof of principle for C...
Article
Full-text available
Culex quinquefasciatus is a vector of a diverse range of vector-borne diseases such as avian malaria, West Nile virus (WNV), Japanese encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, and Saint Louis encephalitis. Notably, avian malaria has played a major role in the extinction of numerous endemic island bird species, while WNV has b...
Article
Full-text available
The discovery of CRISPR-based gene editing and its application to homing-based gene drive systems has been greeted with excitement, for its potential to control mosquito-borne diseases on a wide scale, and concern, for the invasiveness and potential irreversibility of a release. Gene drive systems that display threshold-dependent behavior could pot...