Functional Characterization of Type III-A CRISPR-Cas in a Clinical Human Methicillin-R Staphylococcus aureus Strain

CRISPR J. 2021 Oct;4(5):686-698. doi: 10.1089/crispr.2021.0046. Epub 2021 Sep 23.

Abstract

CRISPR with its cas genes is an adaptive immune system that protects prokaryotes against foreign genetic elements. The type III-A CRISPR-Cas system is rarely found in Staphylococcus aureus, and little is known about its function in S. aureus. Here, we describe the genome characteristics of the clinical methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strain TZ0912, carrying a type III-A CRISPR-Cas system. Phylogenetic analysis of 35 reported CRISPR-Cas-positive S. aureus strains revealed that the CRISPR-Cas system is prevalent in CC8 clones (10/35) and is located in the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) V, which confers methicillin resistance. Plasmid transformation and phage infection assays reveal that the type III-A CRISPR-Cas system protects TZ0912 against foreign DNA with sequence homology to the spacers located in the CRISPR array. We observed that the CRISPR-Cas immune system could effectively protect MRSA against phage attacks in both liquid culture and solid medium. In accordance with previous reports, using RNA-seq analysis and plasmid transformation assays, we find that the crRNAs close to the leading sequence of the CRISPR array are more highly expressed and are more effective at directing plasmid elimination compared to the distant spacers. This study established a model for evaluating the efficiency of naive CRISPR-Cas system in MRSA against phage, which could contribute to future research on the function of CRISPR-Cas in clinical MRSA isolates and improve phage therapy against MRSA infections.