A naturally DNase-free CRISPR-Cas12c enzyme silences gene expression

Mol Cell. 2022 Jun 2;82(11):2148-2160.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2022.04.020.


Used widely for genome editing, CRISPR-Cas enzymes provide RNA-guided immunity to microbes by targeting foreign nucleic acids for cleavage. We show here that the native activity of CRISPR-Cas12c protects bacteria from phage infection by binding to DNA targets without cleaving them, revealing that antiviral interference can be accomplished without chemical attack on the invader or general metabolic disruption in the host. Biochemical experiments demonstrate that Cas12c is a site-specific ribonuclease capable of generating mature CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) from precursor transcripts. Furthermore, we find that crRNA maturation is essential for Cas12c-mediated DNA targeting. These crRNAs direct double-stranded DNA binding by Cas12c using a mechanism that precludes DNA cutting. Nevertheless, Cas12c represses transcription and can defend bacteria against lytic bacteriophage infection when targeting an essential phage gene. Together, these results show that Cas12c employs targeted DNA binding to provide antiviral immunity in bacteria, providing a native DNase-free pathway for transient antiviral immunity.

Keywords: CRISPR; CRISPR interference; CRISPRi; Cas12c; bacterial immunity; genome editing; pre-crRNA; sgRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteriophages* / genetics
  • Bacteriophages* / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • RNA / metabolism


  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Deoxyribonuclease I