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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2014 May;12(5):317-26. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3241. Epub 2014 Apr 7.

CRISPR-Cas systems: beyond adaptive immunity.

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University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.


The discovery of CRISPR-Cas (clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-CRISPR-associated proteins) adaptive immune systems in prokaryotes has been one of the most exciting advances in microbiology in the past decade. Their role in host protection against mobile genetic elements is now well established, but there is mounting evidence that these systems modulate other processes, such as the genetic regulation of group behaviour and virulence, DNA repair and genome evolution. In this Progress article, we discuss recent studies that have provided insights into these unconventional CRISPR-Cas functions and consider their potential evolutionary implications. Understanding the role of CRISPR-Cas in these processes will improve our understanding of the evolution and maintenance of CRISPR-Cas systems in prokaryotic genomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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