Interactions between Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) RNAs and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins form an RNA-guided adaptive immune system in prokaryotes. The adaptive immune system utilizes segments of the genetic material of invasive foreign elements in the CRISPR locus. The loci are transcribed and processed to produce small CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs), with degradation of invading genetic material directed by a combination of complementarity between RNA and DNA and in some cases recognition of adjacent motifs called PAMs (Protospacer Adjacent Motifs). Here we describe a general, high-throughput procedure to test the efficacy of thousands of targets, applying this to the Escherichia coli type I-E Cascade (CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense) system. These studies were followed with reciprocal experiments in which the consequence of CRISPR activity was survival in the presence of a lytic phage. From the combined analysis of the Cascade system, we found that (i) type I-E Cascade PAM recognition is more expansive than previously reported, with at least 22 distinct PAMs, with many of the noncanonical PAMs having CRISPR-interference abilities similar to the canonical PAMs; (ii) PAM positioning appears precise, with no evidence for tolerance to PAM slippage in interference; and (iii) while increased guanine-cytosine (GC) content in the spacer is associated with higher CRISPR-interference efficiency, high GC content (>62.5%) decreases CRISPR-interference efficiency. Our findings provide a comprehensive functional profile of Cascade type I-E interference requirements and a method to assay spacer efficacy that can be applied to other CRISPR-Cas systems.
Keywords: CRISPR-Cas; CRISPR-interference; Cascade; guide efficacy; phage.
Copyright © 2017 by the Genetics Society of America.