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Recent studies have uncovered CRISPR–Cas systems with non-nuclease functions. The RNA-targeting type III-E effector Cas7-11 — initially discovered in the marine bacterium Desulfonema ishimotonii — has been shown to associate with a caspase-like protease known as Csx29, suggesting that Cas7-11 and Csx29 function might be linked. Studies published in Science by Kato et al. and Strecker et al. now show that Cas7-11 mediates the RNA-guided protease activity of Csx29 and explore strategies for exploiting this system for RNA sensing.