SEP 13, 2017 06:00 AM PDT

Microbe Wars: The Rise of CRISPR Immunity and Technology

C.E. CREDITS: P.A.C.E. CE | Florida CE
  • Science Communications Manager, Innovative Genomics Institute
      Megan has a B.A. in Biology from Brown University and received her Ph.D. from Jennifer Doudna's lab at UC Berkeley in 2016, where she studied mechanisms of CRISPR immunity in bacteria. She joined the IGI in September 2016 to handle scientific communications, hoping to bridge the gap between researchers and the public.


    Prokaryotes have long been at war with bacteriophage. The evolutionary pressure of this struggle has led both sides to develop sophisticated defenses. Notably, CRISPR-Cas systems evolved to let bacteria and archaea record past infections and rapidly squelch subsequent viral invasions. First, CRISPR proteins capture nucleic acids to build a genomic gallery of "molecular mugshots." Next, the mugshots are printed into RNA copies and distributed amongst CRISPR interference proteins. These RNA-guided bounty hunters precisely identify and cleave offending genomes to halt infection. No system is fool-proof, however, and recent work has elucidated an impressive arsenal of "anti-CRISPR" proteins that bacteriophage deploy to evade destruction. Studying this on-going arms race has yielded a treasure trove of biotechnology tools. I will discuss the stages of CRISPR immunity while highlighting how scientists have co-opted its various proteins for diverse applications.

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