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Annu Rev Biophys. 2015;44:229-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-060414-033939. Epub 2015 May 27.

Structure Principles of CRISPR-Cas Surveillance and Effector Complexes.

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Institute of Molecular Biophysics and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306; email:


The pathway of CRISPR-Cas immunity redefines the roles of RNA in the flow of genetic information and ignites excitement for next-generation gene therapy tools. CRISPR-Cas machineries offer a fascinating set of new enzyme assemblies from which one can learn principles of molecular interactions and chemical activities. The interference step of the CRISPR-Cas immunity pathway congregates proteins, RNA, and DNA into a single molecular entity that selectively destroys invading nucleic acids. Although much remains to be discovered, a picture of how the interference process takes place is emerging. This review focuses on the current structural data for the three known types of RNA-guided nucleic acid interference mechanisms. In it, we describe key features of individual complexes and we emphasize comparisons across types and along functional stages. We aim to provide readers with a set of core principles learned from the three types of interference complexes and a deep appreciation of the diversity among them.


DNA interference; RNA silencing; prokaryote immunity; ribonucleoprotein particles

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