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Annu Rev Biochem. 2013;82:237-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-072911-172315. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

CRISPR-mediated adaptive immune systems in bacteria and archaea.

Author information

1
Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel. rotem.sorek@weizmann.ac.il

Abstract

Effective clearance of an infection requires that the immune system rapidly detects and neutralizes invading parasites while strictly avoiding self-antigens that would result in autoimmunity. The cellular machinery and complex signaling pathways that coordinate an effective immune response have generally been considered properties of the eukaryotic immune system. However, a surprisingly sophisticated adaptive immune system that relies on small RNAs for sequence-specific targeting of foreign nucleic acids was recently discovered in bacteria and archaea. Molecular vaccination in prokaryotes is achieved by integrating short fragments of foreign nucleic acids into a repetitive locus in the host chromosome known as a CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat). Here we review the mechanisms of CRISPR-mediated immunity and discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of these adaptive defense systems.

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