The Question

How can the CRISPR bacterial immune system be used to specifically and accurately edit genomes in many different organisms?

Researchers have discovered what is perhaps the smallest adaptive immune system ever described, the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) system.  The acronym stands for the arrangement of DNA sequences within bacteria.  For a long time, these sequences had unknown function, and thus were named only for their ostensible structure.  But in the past decade, it was uncovered that the CRISPR pathway selectively destroys non-native DNA, and thus defends the host cells against foreign infection.  Not only this, but the system is able to adapt to new infections, by incorporating foreign DNA into the bacterial genome.

crispr with guide and PAM cartoon

Cas9 is a protein and RNA complex that can bind and destroy specific sequences of DNA within a host cell. How can this be used for genome engineering? (Crystal image rendered from PDB: 4UN3 Anders et al. 2014.)

Researchers are now developing methods to exogenously use the CRISPR system to modify the genomes of variety of organisms, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic. This website explains the biochemical pathways and mechanisms of the CRISPR system, specifically the Cas9 endonuclease, that researchers exploit to specifically target and modify DNA in many organisms.

Recommended Page: The Answer



94 Responses to The Question

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  3. Peter says:

    Adaptation of the foreign DNA form invading virus, then destroying the DNA of the invading virus first, that can be occurred directly after the invasion of the virus?

  4. Merve says:

    how can the Cas9 enzyme be inhibited?

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  40. Tracy Turner says:

    Yes, the CRISPR system is able to adapt to new infections. The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses. If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. A lot of investment and R&D is done for this.

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