CRISPR-Cas immunity in prokaryotes

Abstract

Prokaryotic organisms are threatened by a large array of viruses and have developed numerous defence strategies. Among these, only clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity against foreign elements. Upon viral injection, a small sequence of the viral genome, known as a spacer, is integrated into the CRISPR locus to immunize the host cell. Spacers are transcribed into small RNA guides that direct the cleavage of the viral DNA by Cas nucleases. Immunization through spacer acquisition enables a unique form of evolution whereby a population not only rapidly acquires resistance to its predators but also passes this resistance mechanism vertically to its progeny.

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Figure 1: Stages of CRISPR-Cas immunity.
Figure 2: Immunity mechanisms of the different CRISPR-Cas types.
Figure 3: Mechanism of CRISPR immunization.

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Acknowledgements

L.A.M. is supported by the Rita Allen Scholars Program, an Irma T. Hirschl Award, a Sinsheimer Foundation Award and a NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (1DP2AI104556-01).

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Correspondence to Luciano A. Marraffini.

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Marraffini, L. CRISPR-Cas immunity in prokaryotes. Nature 526, 55–61 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature15386

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