The diversity-generating benefits of a prokaryotic adaptive immune system
van Houte, Stineke
Ekroth, Alice K. E.
Broniewski, Jenny M.
Westra, Edze R.
Nature Publishing Group
Reason for embargo
Prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems insert spacers derived from viruses and other parasitic DNA elements into CRISPR loci to provide sequence-specific immunity. This frequently results in high within-population spacer diversity, but it is unclear if and why this is important. Here we show that, as a result of this spacer diversity, viruses can no longer evolve to overcome CRISPR-Cas by point mutation, which results in rapid virus extinction. This effect arises from synergy between spacer diversity and the high specificity of infection, which greatly increases overall population resistance. We propose that the resulting short-lived nature of CRISPR-dependent bacteria-virus coevolution has provided strong selection for the evolution of sophisticated virus-encoded anti-CRISPR mechanisms.
S.v.H. has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement number 660039. E.R.W. received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Research Executive Agency grant agreement number 327606. E.R.W., A.B. and M.B. also acknowledge the Natural Environment Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Royal Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust and the AXA research fund for funding. J.M.B.-D. was supported by the University of California San Francisco Program for Breakthrough in Biomedical Research, the Sandler Foundation, and a National Institutes of Health Director’s Early Independence Award (DP5-OD021344). H.C. was funded by the Erasmus+ programme (European Union), the Explora’Sup programme (Région Rhône-Alpes) and the Centre Régional des Œuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (CROUS; French State).
Nature 532, 385–388 (21 April 2016)