Avoidance of Self during CRISPR Immunization

Trends Microbiol. 2020 Jul;28(7):543-553. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2020.02.005. Epub 2020 Apr 10.


The battle between microbes and their viruses is ancient and ongoing. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) immunity, the first and, to date, only form of adaptive immunity found in prokaryotes, represents a flexible mechanism to recall past infections while also adapting to a changing pathogenic environment. Critical to the role of CRISPR as an adaptive immune mechanism is its capacity for self versus non-self recognition when acquiring novel immune memories. Yet, CRISPR systems vary widely in both how and to what degree they can distinguish foreign from self-derived genetic material. We document known and hypothesized mechanisms that bias the acquisition of immune memory towards non-self targets. We demonstrate that diversity is the rule, with many widespread but no universal mechanisms for self versus non-self recognition.

Keywords: autoimmunity; priming; self–non-self recognition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / virology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena / immunology*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology