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1.  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
2.  Characterization of CRISPR RNA processing in Clostridium thermocellum and Methanococcus maripaludis  
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(19):9887-9896.
The CRISPR arrays found in many bacteria and most archaea are transcribed into a long precursor RNA that is processed into small clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) RNAs (crRNAs). These RNA molecules can contain fragments of viral genomes and mediate, together with a set of CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins, the prokaryotic immunity against viral attacks. CRISPR/Cas systems are diverse and the Cas6 enzymes that process crRNAs vary between different subtypes. We analysed CRISPR/Cas subtype I-B and present the identification of novel Cas6 enzymes from the bacterial and archaeal model organisms Clostridium thermocellum and Methanococcus maripaludis C5. Methanococcus maripaludis Cas6b in vitro activity and specificity was determined. Two complementary catalytic histidine residues were identified. RNA-Seq analyses revealed in vivo crRNA processing sites, crRNA abundance and orientation of CRISPR transcription within these two organisms. Individual spacer sequences were identified with strong effects on transcription and processing patterns of a CRISPR cluster. These effects will need to be considered for the application of CRISPR clusters that are designed to produce synthetic crRNAs.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks737
PMCID: PMC3479195  PMID: 22879377
3.  Peptidomics of the Agriculturally Damaging Larval Stage of the Cabbage Root Fly Delia radicum (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41543.
The larvae of the cabbage root fly induce serious damage to cultivated crops of the family Brassicaceae. We here report the biochemical characterisation of neuropeptides from the central nervous system and neurohemal organs, as well as regulatory peptides from enteroendocrine midgut cells of the cabbage maggot. By LC-MALDI-TOF/TOF and chemical labelling with 4-sulfophenyl isothiocyanate, 38 peptides could be identified, representing major insect peptide families: allatostatin A, allatostatin C, FMRFamide-like peptides, kinin, CAPA peptides, pyrokinins, sNPF, myosuppressin, corazonin, SIFamide, sulfakinins, tachykinins, NPLP1-peptides, adipokinetic hormone and CCHamide 1. We also report a new peptide (Yamide) which appears to be homolog to an amidated eclosion hormone-associated peptide in several Drosophila species. Immunocytochemical characterisation of the distribution of several classes of peptide-immunoreactive neurons and enteroendocrine cells shows a very similar but not identical peptide distribution to Drosophila. Since peptides regulate many vital physiological and behavioural processes such as moulting or feeding, our data may initiate the pharmacological testing and development of new specific peptide-based protection methods against the cabbage root fly and its larva.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041543
PMCID: PMC3405134  PMID: 22848525

Results 1-3 (3)