CRISPR-cas systems in bacteria and archaea: Versatile small RNAs for adaptive defense and regulation

Devaki Bhaya, Michelle Davison, Rodolphe Barrangou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

487 Scopus citations

Abstract

Bacteria and archaea have evolved defense and regulatory mechanisms to cope with various environmental stressors, including virus attack. This arsenal has been expanded by the recent discovery of the versatile CRISPR-Cas system, which has two novel features. First, the host can specifically incorporate short sequences from invading genetic elements (virus or plasmid) into a region of its genome that is distinguished by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs). Second, when these sequences are transcribed and precisely processed into small RNAs, they guide a multifunctional protein complex (Cas proteins) to recognize and cleave incoming foreign genetic material. This adaptive immunity system, which uses a library of small noncoding RNAs as a potent weapon against fast-evolving viruses, is also used as a regulatory system by the host. Exciting breakthroughs in understanding the mechanisms of the CRISPR-Cas system and its potential for biotechnological applications and understanding evolutionary dynamics are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-297
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual review of genetics
Volume45
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 14 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics

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