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CRISPR-Cas Controls Cryptic Prophages

journal contribution
submitted on 2024-03-31, 09:02 and posted on 2024-03-31, 09:02 authored by Sooyeon Song, Ekaterina Semenova, Konstantin Severinov, Laura Fernández-García, Michael J. Benedik, Toshinari Maeda, Thomas K. Wood

The bacterial archetypal adaptive immune system, CRISPR-Cas, is thought to be repressed in the best-studied bacterium, Escherichia coli K-12. We show here that the E. coli CRISPR-Cas system is active and serves to inhibit its nine defective (i.e., cryptic) prophages. Specifically, compared to the wild-type strain, reducing the amounts of specific interfering RNAs (crRNA) decreases growth by 40%, increases cell death by 700%, and prevents persister cell resuscitation. Similar results were obtained by inactivating CRISPR-Cas by deleting the entire 13 spacer region (CRISPR array); hence, CRISPR-Cas serves to inhibit the remaining deleterious effects of these cryptic prophages, most likely through CRISPR array-derived crRNA binding to cryptic prophage mRNA rather than through cleavage of cryptic prophage DNA, i.e., self-targeting. Consistently, four of the 13 E. coli spacers contain complementary regions to the mRNA sequences of seven cryptic prophages, and inactivation of CRISPR-Cas increases the level of mRNA for lysis protein YdfD of cryptic prophage Qin and lysis protein RzoD of cryptic prophage DLP-12. In addition, lysis is clearly seen via transmission electron microscopy when the whole CRISPR-Cas array is deleted, and eliminating spacer #12, which encodes crRNA with complementary regions for DLP-12 (including rzoD), Rac, Qin (including ydfD), and CP4-57 cryptic prophages, also results in growth inhibition and cell lysis. Therefore, we report the novel results that (i) CRISPR-Cas is active in E. coli and (ii) CRISPR-Cas is used to tame cryptic prophages, likely through RNAi, i.e., unlike with active lysogens, active CRISPR-Cas and cryptic prophages may stably co-exist.

Other Information

Published in: International Journal of Molecular Sciences
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  • English



Publication Year

  • 2022

License statement

This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University

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