CRISPR-Cas immunity and mobile DNA: a new superfamily of DNA transposons encoding a Cas1 endonuclease

Mob DNA. 2014 Aug 26;5:23. doi: 10.1186/1759-8753-5-23. eCollection 2014.


Mobile genetic elements such as DNA transposons are a feature of most genomes. The existence of novel DNA transposons can be inferred when whole genome sequencing reveals the presence of hallmarks of mobile elements such as terminal inverted repeats (TIRs) flanked by target site duplications (TSDs). A recent report describes a new superfamily of DNA transposons in the genomes of a few bacteria and archaea that possess TIRs and TSDs, and encode several conserved genes including a cas1 endonuclease gene, previously associated only with CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems. The data strongly suggests that these elements, designated 'casposons', are likely to be bona fide DNA transposons and that their Cas1 nucleases act as transposases and are possibly still active.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; CRISPR-Cas; Cas1 nuclease protein; Casposon; DNA transposition; Transposable elements; V(D)J recombination.