CRISPR-based technologies: prokaryotic defense weapons repurposed

Trends Genet. 2014 Mar;30(3):111-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2014.01.003. Epub 2014 Feb 18.


To combat potentially deadly viral infections, prokaryotic microbes enlist small RNA-based adaptive immune systems (CRISPR-Cas systems) that protect through sequence-specific recognition and targeted destruction of viral nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA depending on the system). Here, we summarize rapid progress made in redirecting the nuclease activities of these microbial immune systems to bind and cleave DNA or RNA targets of choice, by reprogramming the small guide RNAs of the various CRISPR-Cas complexes. These studies have demonstrated the potential of Type II CRISPR-Cas systems both as efficient and versatile genome-editing tools and as potent and specific regulators of gene expression in a broad range of cell types (including human) and organisms. Progress is also being made in developing a Type III RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas system as a novel gene knockdown platform to investigate gene function and modulate gene expression for metabolic engineering in microbes.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas; RNA silencing; biotechnology; genome editing; metabolic engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • RNA Editing / genetics


  • Endoribonucleases