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1.  Modulating the Cascade architecture of a minimal Type I-F CRISPR-Cas system 
Nucleic Acids Research  2016;44(12):5872-5882.
Shewanella putrefaciens CN-32 contains a single Type I-Fv CRISPR-Cas system which confers adaptive immunity against bacteriophage infection. Three Cas proteins (Cas6f, Cas7fv, Cas5fv) and mature CRISPR RNAs were shown to be required for the assembly of an interference complex termed Cascade. The Cas protein-CRISPR RNA interaction sites within this complex were identified via mass spectrometry. Additional Cas proteins, commonly described as large and small subunits, that are present in all other investigated Cascade structures, were not detected. We introduced this minimal Type I system in Escherichia coli and show that it provides heterologous protection against lambda phage. The absence of a large subunit suggests that the length of the crRNA might not be fixed and recombinant Cascade complexes with drastically shortened and elongated crRNAs were engineered. Size-exclusion chromatography and small-angle X-ray scattering analyses revealed that the number of Cas7fv backbone subunits is adjusted in these shortened and extended Cascade variants. Larger Cascade complexes can still confer immunity against lambda phage infection in E. coli. Minimized Type I CRISPR-Cas systems expand our understanding of the evolution of Cascade assembly and diversity. Their adjustable crRNA length opens the possibility for customizing target DNA specificity.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkw469
PMCID: PMC4937334  PMID: 27216815
2.  Interference activity of a minimal Type I CRISPR–Cas system from Shewanella putrefaciens 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(18):8913-8923.
Type I CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)–Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems exist in bacterial and archaeal organisms and provide immunity against foreign DNA. The Cas protein content of the DNA interference complexes (termed Cascade) varies between different CRISPR-Cas subtypes. A minimal variant of the Type I-F system was identified in proteobacterial species including Shewanella putrefaciens CN-32. This variant lacks a large subunit (Csy1), Csy2 and Csy3 and contains two unclassified cas genes. The genome of S. putrefaciens CN-32 contains only five Cas proteins (Cas1, Cas3, Cas6f, Cas1821 and Cas1822) and a single CRISPR array with 81 spacers. RNA-Seq analyses revealed the transcription of this array and the maturation of crRNAs (CRISPR RNAs). Interference assays based on plasmid conjugation demonstrated that this CRISPR-Cas system is active in vivo and that activity is dependent on the recognition of the dinucleotide GG PAM (Protospacer Adjacent Motif) sequence and crRNA abundance. The deletion of cas1821 and cas1822 reduced the cellular crRNA pool. Recombinant Cas1821 was shown to form helical filaments bound to RNA molecules, which suggests its role as the Cascade backbone protein. A Cascade complex was isolated which contained multiple Cas1821 copies, Cas1822, Cas6f and mature crRNAs.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkv882
PMCID: PMC4605320  PMID: 26350210
3.  Substrate Generation for Endonucleases of CRISPR/Cas Systems 
The interaction of viruses and their prokaryotic hosts shaped the evolution of bacterial and archaeal life. Prokaryotes developed several strategies to evade viral attacks that include restriction modification, abortive infection and CRISPR/Cas systems. These adaptive immune systems found in many Bacteria and most Archaea consist of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) sequences and a number of CRISPR associated (Cas) genes (Fig. 1)1-3. Different sets of Cas proteins and repeats define at least three major divergent types of CRISPR/Cas systems 4. The universal proteins Cas1 and Cas2 are proposed to be involved in the uptake of viral DNA that will generate a new spacer element between two repeats at the 5' terminus of an extending CRISPR cluster 5. The entire cluster is transcribed into a precursor-crRNA containing all spacer and repeat sequences and is subsequently processed by an enzyme of the diverse Cas6 family into smaller crRNAs 6-8. These crRNAs consist of the spacer sequence flanked by a 5' terminal (8 nucleotides) and a 3' terminal tag derived from the repeat sequence 9. A repeated infection of the virus can now be blocked as the new crRNA will be directed by a Cas protein complex (Cascade) to the viral DNA and identify it as such via base complementarity10. Finally, for CRISPR/Cas type 1 systems, the nuclease Cas3 will destroy the detected invader DNA 11,12 .
These processes define CRISPR/Cas as an adaptive immune system of prokaryotes and opened a fascinating research field for the study of the involved Cas proteins. The function of many Cas proteins is still elusive and the causes for the apparent diversity of the CRISPR/Cas systems remain to be illuminated. Potential activities of most Cas proteins were predicted via detailed computational analyses. A major fraction of Cas proteins are either shown or proposed to function as endonucleases 4.
Here, we present methods to generate crRNAs and precursor-cRNAs for the study of Cas endoribonucleases. Different endonuclease assays require either short repeat sequences that can directly be synthesized as RNA oligonucleotides or longer crRNA and pre-crRNA sequences that are generated via in vitro T7 RNA polymerase run-off transcription. This methodology allows the incorporation of radioactive nucleotides for the generation of internally labeled endonuclease substrates and the creation of synthetic or mutant crRNAs. Cas6 endonuclease activity is utilized to mature pre-crRNAs into crRNAs with 5'-hydroxyl and a 2',3'-cyclic phosphate termini.
doi:10.3791/4277
PMCID: PMC3490271  PMID: 22986408
Molecular biology; Issue 67; CRISPR/Cas; endonuclease;  in vitro transcription; crRNA; Cas6

Results 1-3 (3)