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Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Aug 22;47(14):7518-7531. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz548.

CRISPR repeat sequences and relative spacing specify DNA integration by Pyrococcus furiosus Cas1 and Cas2.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Institute for Systems Genomics, UConn Stem Cell Institute, UConn Health, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Acquiring foreign spacer DNA into the CRISPR locus is an essential primary step of the CRISPR-Cas pathway in prokaryotes for developing host immunity to mobile genetic elements. Here, we investigate spacer integration in vitro using proteins from Pyrococcus furiosus and demonstrate that Cas1 and Cas2 are sufficient to accurately integrate spacers into a minimal CRISPR locus. Using high-throughput sequencing, we identified high frequency spacer integration occurring at the same CRISPR repeat border sites utilized in vivo, as well as at several non-CRISPR plasmid sequences which share features with repeats. Analysis of non-CRISPR integration sites revealed that Cas1 and Cas2 are directed to catalyze full-site spacer integration at specific DNA stretches where guanines and/or cytosines are 30 base pairs apart and the intervening sequence harbors several positionally conserved bases. Moreover, assaying a series of CRISPR repeat mutations, followed by sequencing of the integration products, revealed that the specificity of integration is primarily directed by sequences at the leader-repeat junction as well as an adenine-rich sequence block in the mid-repeat. Together, our results indicate that P. furiosus Cas1 and Cas2 recognize multiple sequence features distributed over a 30 base pair DNA region for accurate spacer integration at the CRISPR repeat.

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