The CRISPR-Cas immune system: biology, mechanisms and applications

Biochimie. 2015 Oct;117:119-28. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2015.03.025. Epub 2015 Apr 10.


Viruses are a common threat to cellular life, not the least to bacteria and archaea who constitute the majority of life on Earth. Consequently, a variety of mechanisms to resist virus infection has evolved. A recent discovery is the adaptive immune system in prokaryotes, a type of system previously thought to be present only in vertebrates. The system, called CRISPR-Cas, provide sequence-specific adaptive immunity and fundamentally affect our understanding of virus-host interaction. CRISPR-based immunity acts by integrating short virus sequences in the cell's CRISPR locus, allowing the cell to remember, recognize and clear infections. There has been rapid advancement in our understanding of this immune system and its applications, but there are many aspects that await elucidation making the field an exciting area of research. This review provides an overview of the field and highlights unresolved issues.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas3; Cas9; Cascade; Cmr/Csm.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / immunology
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Virus Diseases / genetics*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Viruses / genetics*
  • Viruses / immunology