Novel configurations of Type I and II CRISPR/Cas systems in Corynebacterium diphtheriae

Sangal, Vartul and Fineran, Peter and Hoskisson, Paul (2013) Novel configurations of Type I and II CRISPR/Cas systems in Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Microbiology, 159 (10). pp. 2118-2126. ISSN 1350-0872

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Abstract

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) are major barriers to recombination through recognition of invading nucleic acids, such as phage and plasmids, and promoting their degredation through the action of CRISPR associated (Cas) proteins. The genomic comparison of 17 Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains led to the identification of three novel CRISPR-Cas system variants, based on the Type II (Type II-C) or type I-E systems. The type II-C system was the most common (11/17 isolates) but it lacked the csn2 and cas4 genes that are involved in spacer acquisition. We also identified that this variant type II-C CRISPR-Cas system is present in other bacteria, and the first system was recently characterized in Neisseria meningitidis. In the remaining isolates, the type II-C system was replaced by a variant of type I-E (I-E-a), where the repeat arrays are inserted between the cas3 and cse1 genes. Three isolates with the type II-C system also possess an additional variant of type I-E (I-E-b), elsewhere in the genome, that exhibits a novel divergent gene organization within the cas operon. The nucleotide sequences of the palindromic repeats and the cas1 gene were phylogenetically incongruent to the core genome. The G+C content of the systems is lower (46.0-49.5 mol%) than the overall DNA G+C content (53 mol%), and they are flanked by mobile genetic elements, providing evidence that they were acquired in three independent horizontal gene transfer events. The majority of spacers lack identity with known phage or plasmid sequences, indicating that there is an unexplored reservoir of corynebacteriophages and plasmids. These novel CRISPR-Cas systems may represent a unique mechanism for spacer acquisitions and defence against invading DNA.