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Mol Cell. 2013 Oct 10;52(1):146-52. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.09.008.

Structure of an RNA silencing complex of the CRISPR-Cas immune system.

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Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.


Bacterial and archaeal clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) loci capture virus and plasmid sequences and use them to recognize and eliminate these invaders. CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) containing the acquired sequences are incorporated into effector complexes that destroy matching invader nucleic acids. The multicomponent Cmr effector complex cleaves RNA targets complementary to the crRNAs. Here, we report cryoelectron microscopy reconstruction of a functional Cmr complex bound with a target RNA at ~12 Å. Pairs of the Cmr4 and Cmr5 proteins form a helical core that is asymmetrically capped on each end by distinct pairs of the four remaining subunits: Cmr2 and Cmr3 at the conserved 5' crRNA tag sequence and Cmr1 and Cmr6 near the 3' end of the crRNA. The shape and organization of the RNA-targeting Cmr complex is strikingly similar to the DNA-targeting Cascade complex. Our results reveal a remarkably conserved architecture among very distantly related CRISPR-Cas complexes.

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