DnaQ exonuclease-like domain of Cas2 promotes spacer integration in a type I-E CRISPR-Cas system

EMBO Rep. 2018 Jul;19(7):e45543. doi: 10.15252/embr.201745543. Epub 2018 Jun 11.


CRISPR-Cas systems constitute an adaptive immune system that provides acquired resistance against phages and plasmids in prokaryotes. Upon invasion of foreign nucleic acids, some cells integrate short fragments of foreign DNA as spacers into the CRISPR locus to memorize the invaders and acquire resistance in the subsequent round of infection. This immunization step called adaptation is the least understood part of the CRISPR-Cas immunity. We have focused here on the adaptation stage of Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 type I-E CRISPR4-Cas (St4) system. Cas1 and Cas2 proteins conserved in nearly all CRISPR-Cas systems are required for spacer acquisition. The St4 CRISPR-Cas system is unique because the Cas2 protein is fused to an additional DnaQ exonuclease domain. Here, we demonstrate that St4 Cas1 and Cas2-DnaQ form a multimeric complex, which is capable of integrating DNA duplexes with 3'-overhangs (protospacers) in vitro We further show that the DnaQ domain of Cas2 functions as a 3'-5'-exonuclease that processes 3'-overhangs of the protospacer to promote integration.

Keywords: Streptococcus thermophilus; Cas1; Cas2; adaptation; protospacer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • DNA Polymerase III / genetics
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics*
  • Protein Domains / genetics
  • Streptococcus thermophilus / genetics*
  • Streptococcus thermophilus / immunology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Intergenic
  • DNA Polymerase III