CRISPR-Cas functions beyond defence-SPP2141

One of the most exciting breakthroughs in biology in the past decade has been the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas system. Initially identified as a prokaryotic defence system, we now know that defence is just one of many functions of this molecular machine. Thus, the prevailing view of CRISPR-Cas as a defence system is too narrow. Other important cellular processes are carried out by the CRISPR-Cas system, such as virulence regulation, DNA repair and the regulation of group behaviour, to name only a few. In some cases, CRISPR- Cas systems may even have completely lost their immune-related functions. At this time, we have barely begun to understand the full biological potential of this system. The newly revealed functions of the CRISPR-Cas system promise exciting biological discoveries and surprising insights into the new activities and will open several novel avenues of research. Thus far, the new CRISPR-Cas functions have primarily been discovered fortuitously and systematic approaches to detect new functions are lacking. The SPP2141 aims at finding new CRISPR-Cas fuctions beyond defence using a systematic coordinated approach with 21 interdisciplinary groups.

 

CRISPR-Cas functions beyond defence. Functions of the CRISPR-Cas system in virulence and group behaviour have been described and are shown here. To date, the molecular details underlying these functions are not known. Figure modified from (Ratner, H.K. et al. (2015) I can see CRISPR now, even when phage are gone: a view on alternative CRISPR-Cas functions from the prokaryotic envelope. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 28, 267-74.)