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1.  Exploiting CRISPR/Cas: Interference Mechanisms and Applications 
The discovery of biological concepts can often provide a framework for the development of novel molecular tools, which can help us to further understand and manipulate life. One recent example is the elucidation of the prokaryotic adaptive immune system, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) that protects bacteria and archaea against viruses or conjugative plasmids. The immunity is based on small RNA molecules that are incorporated into versatile multi-domain proteins or protein complexes and specifically target viral nucleic acids via base complementarity. CRISPR/Cas interference machines are utilized to develop novel genome editing tools for different organisms. Here, we will review the latest progress in the elucidation and application of prokaryotic CRISPR/Cas systems and discuss possible future approaches to exploit the potential of these interference machineries.
doi:10.3390/ijms140714518
PMCID: PMC3742257  PMID: 23857052
CRISPR; crRNA; Cas9; Cascade; interference; genome editing; RGEN; TALEN; ZNF
2.  Characterization of the CRISPR/Cas Subtype I-A System of the Hyperthermophilic Crenarchaeon Thermoproteus tenax 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(10):2491-2500.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) elements and cas (CRISPR-associated) genes are widespread in Bacteria and Archaea. The CRISPR/Cas system operates as a defense mechanism against mobile genetic elements (i.e., viruses or plasmids). Here, we investigate seven CRISPR loci in the genome of the crenarchaeon Thermoproteus tenax that include spacers with significant similarity not only to archaeal viruses but also to T. tenax genes. The analysis of CRISPR RNA (crRNA) transcription reveals transcripts of a length between 50 and 130 nucleotides, demonstrating the processing of larger crRNA precursors. The organization of identified cas genes resembles CRISPR/Cas subtype I-A, and the core cas genes are shown to be arranged on two polycistronic transcripts: cascis (cas4, cas1/2, and csa1) and cascade (csa5, cas7, cas5a, cas3, cas3′, and cas8a2). Changes in the environmental parameters such as UV-light exposure or high ionic strength modulate cas gene transcription. Two reconstitution protocols were established for the production of two discrete multipartite Cas protein complexes that correspond to their operonic gene arrangement. These data provide insights into the specialized mechanisms of an archaeal CRISPR/Cas system and allow selective functional analyses of Cas protein complexes in the future.
doi:10.1128/JB.00206-12
PMCID: PMC3347209  PMID: 22408157
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
4.  Small RNAs for defence and regulation in archaea 
Extremophiles  2012;16(5):685-696.
Non-coding RNAs are key players in many cellular processes within organisms from all three domains of life. The range and diversity of small RNA functions beyond their involvement in translation and RNA processing was first recognized for eukaryotes and bacteria. Since then, small RNAs were also found to be abundant in archaea. Their functions include the regulation of gene expression and the establishment of immunity against invading mobile genetic elements. This review summarizes our current knowledge about small RNAs used for regulation and defence in archaea.
doi:10.1007/s00792-012-0469-5
PMCID: PMC3432209  PMID: 22763819
sRNA; Lsm; Hfq; Archaea; CRISPR; crRNA
5.  The Complete Genome Sequence of Thermoproteus tenax: A Physiologically Versatile Member of the Crenarchaeota 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e24222.
Here, we report on the complete genome sequence of the hyperthermophilic Crenarchaeum Thermoproteus tenax (strain Kra1, DSM 2078T) a type strain of the crenarchaeotal order Thermoproteales. Its circular 1.84-megabase genome harbors no extrachromosomal elements and 2,051 open reading frames are identified, covering 90.6% of the complete sequence, which represents a high coding density. Derived from the gene content, T. tenax is a representative member of the Crenarchaeota. The organism is strictly anaerobic and sulfur-dependent with optimal growth at 86°C and pH 5.6. One particular feature is the great metabolic versatility, which is not accompanied by a distinct increase of genome size or information density as compared to other Crenarchaeota. T. tenax is able to grow chemolithoautotrophically (CO2/H2) as well as chemoorganoheterotrophically in presence of various organic substrates. All pathways for synthesizing the 20 proteinogenic amino acids are present. In addition, two presumably complete gene sets for NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) were identified in the genome and there is evidence that either NADH or reduced ferredoxin might serve as electron donor. Beside the typical archaeal A0A1-ATP synthase, a membrane-bound pyrophosphatase is found, which might contribute to energy conservation. Surprisingly, all genes required for dissimilatory sulfate reduction are present, which is confirmed by growth experiments. Mentionable is furthermore, the presence of two proteins (ParA family ATPase, actin-like protein) that might be involved in cell division in Thermoproteales, where the ESCRT system is absent, and of genes involved in genetic competence (DprA, ComF) that is so far unique within Archaea.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024222
PMCID: PMC3189178  PMID: 22003381

Results 1-5 (5)