SMV1 virus-induced CRISPR spacer acquisition from the conjugative plasmid pMGB1 in Sulfolobus solfataricus P2

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Organisms of the crenarchaeal order Sulfolobales carry complex CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) adaptive immune systems. These systems are modular and show extensive structural and functional diversity, especially in their interference complexes. The primary targets are an exceptional range of diverse viruses, many of which propagate stably within cells and follow lytic life cycles without producing cell lysis. These properties are consistent with the difficulty of activating CRISPR spacer uptake in the laboratory, but appear to conflict with the high complexity and diversity of the CRISPR immune systems that are found among the Sulfolobales. In the present article, we re-examine the first successful induction of archaeal spacer acquisition in our laboratory that occurred exclusively for the conjugative plasmid pMGB1 in Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 that was co-infected with the virus SMV1 (Sulfolobus monocaudavirus 1). Although we reaffirm that protospacer selection is essentially a random process with respect to the pMGB1 genome, we identified single spacer sequences specific for each of CRISPR loci C, D and E that, exceptionally, occurred in many sequenced clones. Moreover, the same sequence was reproducibly acquired for a given locus in independent experiments, consistent with it being the first protospacer to be selected. There was also a small protospacer bias (1.6:1) to the antisense strand of protein genes. In addition, new experiments demonstrated that spacer acquisition in the previously inactive CRISPR locus A could be induced on freeze-thawing of the infected cells, suggesting that environmental stress can facilitate activation. Coincidentally with spacer acquisition, a mobile OrfB element was deleted from pMGB1, suggesting that interplay can occur between spacer acquisition and transposition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1449-1458
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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