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Adaptation processes that build CRISPR immunity: creative destruction, updated



Ryan Reeves

Associate Professor


Prokaryotes can defend themselves against invading mobile genetic elements (MGEs) by acquiring immune memory against them. The memory is a DNA database located at specific chromosomal sites called CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) that store fragments of MGE DNA. These are utilised to target and destroy returning MGEs, preventing re-infection. The effectiveness of CRISPR-based immune defence depends on ‘adaptation’ reactions that capture and integrate MGE DNA fragments into CRISPRs. This provides the means for immunity to be delivered against MGEs in ‘interference’ reactions. Adaptation and interference are catalysed by Cas (CRISPR-associated) proteins, aided by enzymes well known for other roles in cells. We survey the molecular biology of CRISPR adaptation, highlighting entirely new developments that may help us to understand how MGE DNA is captured. We focus on processes in Escherichia coli, punctuated with reference to other prokaryotes that illustrate how common requirements for adaptation, DNA capture and integration, can be achieved in different ways. We also comment on how CRISPR adaptation enzymes, and their antecedents, can be utilised for biotechnology.


Lau, C., Reeves, R., & Bolt, E. (2019). Adaptation processes that build CRISPR immunity: creative destruction, updated. Essays in Biochemistry, 63(2), 227-235.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 23, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 11, 2019
Publication Date Jul 3, 2019
Deposit Date Aug 17, 2020
Journal Essays In Biochemistry
Print ISSN 0071-1365
Electronic ISSN 1744-1358
Publisher Portland Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 63
Issue 2
Pages 227-235
Keywords Biochemistry; Molecular Biology
Public URL
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