Many bacteria and archaea possess an adaptive immune system consisting of repetitive genetic elements known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins. Similar to RNAi pathways in eukaryotes, CRISPR-Cas systems require small RNAs for sequence-specific detection and degradation of complementary nucleic acids. Cas5 and Cas6 enzymes have evolved to specifically recognize and process CRISPR-derived transcripts into functional small RNAs used as guides by interference complexes. Our detailed understanding of these proteins has led to the development of several useful Cas6-based biotechnological methods. Here, we review the structures, functions, mechanisms, and applications of the enzymes responsible for CRISPR RNA (crRNA) processing, highlighting a fascinating family of endonucleases with exquisite RNA recognition and cleavage activities.
Keywords: CRISPR–Cas; Cas5; Cas6; crRNA; endoribonuclease; structure and function.
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