Background: Sequencing of prokaryotic genomes has recently revealed the presence of CRISPR elements: short, highly conserved repeats separated by unique sequences of similar length. The distinctive sequence signature of CRISPR repeats can be found using general-purpose repeat- or pattern-finding software tools. However, the output of such tools is not always ideal for studying these repeats, and significant effort is sometimes needed to build additional tools and perform manual analysis of the output.
Results: We present PILER-CR, a program specifically designed for the identification and analysis of CRISPR repeats. The program executes rapidly, completing a 5 Mb genome in around 5 seconds on a current desktop computer. We validate the algorithm by manual curation and by comparison with published surveys of these repeats, finding that PILER-CR has both high sensitivity and high specificity. We also present a catalogue of putative CRISPR repeats identified in a comprehensive analysis of 346 prokaryotic genomes.
Conclusion: PILER-CR is a useful tool for rapid identification and classification of CRISPR repeats. The software is donated to the public domain. Source code and a Linux binary are freely available at http://www.drive5.com/pilercr.