Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Genomics. 2019 Feb 4;20(1):105. doi: 10.1186/s12864-019-5439-1.

CRISPR-Cas systems are present predominantly on mobile genetic elements in Vibrio species.

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, 328 Wolf Hall, Newark, DE, 19716, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, 328 Wolf Hall, Newark, DE, 19716, USA.



Bacteria are prey for many viruses that hijack the bacterial cell in order to propagate, which can result in bacterial cell lysis and death. Bacteria have developed diverse strategies to counteract virus predation, one of which is the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) and CRISPR associated (Cas) proteins immune defense system. Species within the bacterial family Vibrionaceae are marine organisms that encounter large numbers of phages. Our goal was to determine the significance of CRISPR-Cas systems as a mechanism of defense in this group by investigating their prevalence, phylogenetic distribution, and genome context.


Herein, we describe all the CRISPR-Cas system types and their distribution within the family Vibrionaceae. In Vibrio cholerae genomes, we identified multiple variant type I-F systems, which were also present in 41 additional species. In a large number of Vibrio species, we identified a mini type I-F system comprised of tniQcas5cas7cas6f, which was always associated with Tn7-like transposons. The Tn7-like elements, in addition to the CRISPR-Cas system, also contained additional cargo genes such as restriction modification systems and type three secretion systems. A putative hybrid CRISPR-Cas system was identified containing type III-B genes followed by a type I-F cas6f and a type I-F CRISPR that was associated with a prophage in V. cholerae and V. metoecus strains. Our analysis identified CRISPR-Cas types I-C, I-E, I-F, II-B, III-A, III-B, III-D, and the rare type IV systems as well as cas loci architectural variants among 70 species. All systems described contained a CRISPR array that ranged in size from 3 to 179 spacers. The systems identified were present predominantly within mobile genetic elements (MGEs) such as genomic islands, plasmids, and transposon-like elements. Phylogenetic analysis of Cas proteins indicated that the CRISPR-Cas systems were acquired by horizontal gene transfer.


Our data show that CRISPR-Cas systems are phylogenetically widespread but sporadic in occurrence, actively evolving, and present on MGEs within Vibrionaceae.


CRISPR-Cas systems; Genomic islands; Horizontal gene transfer; Mobile genetic elements; Tn7; Transposons; Vibrio species

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center