On the Origin of CRISPR-Cas Technology: From Prokaryotes to Mammals

Trends Microbiol. 2016 Oct;24(10):811-820. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2016.06.005. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) sequences cooperate with CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins to form the basis of CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems in prokaryotes. For more than 20 years, these systems were of interest only to specialists, mainly molecular microbiologists, who tried to understand the properties of this unique defense mechanism. In 2012, the potential of CRISPR-Cas systems was uncovered and these were presented as genome-editing tools with an outstanding capacity to trigger targeted genetic modifications that can be applied to virtually any organism. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, these tools were shown to efficiently drive specific modification of mammalian genomes. This review attempts to summarize, in a comprehensive manner, the key events and milestones that brought CRISPR-Cas technology from prokaryotes to mammals.

Keywords: gene disruption; gene replacement; gene therapy; genetic modification; genome-editing nucleases; homologous recombination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / physiology
  • Gene Editing*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Genome*
  • Homologous Recombination
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics