CRISPR-based adaptive and heritable immunity in prokaryotes.
van der Oost J., Jore MM., Westra ER., Lundgren M., Brouns SJ.
The recently discovered CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) defense system protects bacteria and archaea against mobile genetic elements. This immunity system has the potential to continuously adjust its reach at the genomic level, implying that both gain and loss of information is inheritable. The CRISPR system consists of typical stretches of interspaced repetitive DNA (CRISPRs) and associated cas genes. Three distinct stages are recognized in the CRISPR defense mechanism: (i) adaptation of the CRISPR via the integration of short sequences of the invaders as spacers; (ii) expression of CRISPRs and subsequent processing to small guide RNAs; and (iii) interference of target DNA by the crRNA guides. Recent analyses of key Cas proteins indicate that, despite some functional analogies, this fascinating prokaryotic system shares no phylogenetic relation with the eukaryotic RNA interference system.