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Diversity, evolution, and therapeutic applications of small RNAs in prokaryotic and eukaryotic immune systems

  • Author(s): Cooper, EL
  • Overstreet, N
  • et al.
Abstract

Recent evidence supports that prokaryotes exhibit adaptive immunity in the form of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats) and Cas (CRISPR associated proteins). The CRISPR-Cas system confers resistance to exogenous genetic elements such as phages and plasmids by allowing for the recognition and silencing of these genetic elements. Moreover, CRISPR-Cas serves as a memory of past exposures. This suggests that the evolution of the immune system has counterparts among the prokaryotes, not exclusively among eukaryotes. Mathematical models have been proposed which simulate the evolutionary patterns of CRISPR, however large gaps in our understanding of CRISPR-Cas function and evolution still exist. The CRISPR-Cas system is analogous to small RNAs involved in resistance mechanisms throughout the tree of life, and a deeper understanding of the evolution of small RNA pathways is necessary before the relationship between these convergent systems is to be determined. Presented in this review are novel RNAi therapies based on CRISPR-Cas analogs and the potential for future therapies based on CRISPR-Cas system components. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

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