The ability to write a stable record of identified molecular events into a specific genomic locus would enable the examination of long cellular histories and have many applications, ranging from developmental biology to synthetic devices. We show that the type I-E CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas system of Escherichia coli can mediate acquisition of defined pieces of synthetic DNA. We harnessed this feature to generate records of specific DNA sequences into a population of bacterial genomes. We then applied directed evolution so as to alter the recognition of a protospacer adjacent motif by the Cas1-Cas2 complex, which enabled recording in two modes simultaneously. We used this system to reveal aspects of spacer acquisition, fundamental to the CRISPR-Cas adaptation process. These results lay the foundations of a multimodal intracellular recording device.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.