The diversity-generating benefits of a prokaryotic adaptive immune system

Stineke van Houte, Alice Ekroth, Jenny Broniewski, Hélène Chabas, Ben Ashby, Joseph Bondy-Denomy, Sylvain Gandon, Mike Boots, Angus Buckling, Edze Westra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Citations (SciVal)
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Prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems insert spacers derived from viruses and other parasitic DNA elements into CRISPR loci to provide sequence-specific immunity. This frequently results in high within-population spacer diversity, but it is unclear if and why this is important. Here we show that, as a result of this spacer diversity, viruses can no longer evolve to overcome CRISPR-Cas by point mutation, which results in rapid virus extinction. This effect arises from synergy between spacer diversity and the high specificity of infection, which greatly increases overall population resistance. We propose that the resulting short-lived nature of CRISPR-dependent bacteria–virus coevolution has provided strong selection for the evolution of sophisticated virus-encoded anti-CRISPR mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-388
Number of pages4
Early online date13 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2016


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