CRISPR/Cas, the immune system of bacteria and archaea

Science. 2010 Jan 8;327(5962):167-70. doi: 10.1126/science.1179555.


Microbes rely on diverse defense mechanisms that allow them to withstand viral predation and exposure to invading nucleic acid. In many Bacteria and most Archaea, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) form peculiar genetic loci, which provide acquired immunity against viruses and plasmids by targeting nucleic acid in a sequence-specific manner. These hypervariable loci take up genetic material from invasive elements and build up inheritable DNA-encoded immunity over time. Conversely, viruses have devised mutational escape strategies that allow them to circumvent the CRISPR/Cas system, albeit at a cost. CRISPR features may be exploited for typing purposes, epidemiological studies, host-virus ecological surveys, building specific immunity against undesirable genetic elements, and enhancing viral resistance in domesticated microbes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / immunology
  • Archaea / virology
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacteria / virology
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / physiology
  • Base Sequence
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Archaeal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Loci*
  • Genome, Archaeal*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Genome, Viral
  • Mutation
  • Plasmids
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • RNA, Archaeal / metabolism
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid*


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • RNA, Archaeal
  • RNA, Bacterial