Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foreign DNA capture during CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity.

  • Author(s): Nuñez, James K;
  • Harrington, Lucas B;
  • Kranzusch, Philip J;
  • Engelman, Alan N;
  • Doudna, Jennifer A
  • et al.

Published Web Location
No data is associated with this publication.

Bacteria and archaea generate adaptive immunity against phages and plasmids by integrating foreign DNA of specific 30-40-base-pair lengths into clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) loci as spacer segments. The universally conserved Cas1-Cas2 integrase complex catalyses spacer acquisition using a direct nucleophilic integration mechanism similar to retroviral integrases and transposases. How the Cas1-Cas2 complex selects foreign DNA substrates for integration remains unknown. Here we present X-ray crystal structures of the Escherichia coli Cas1-Cas2 complex bound to cognate 33-nucleotide protospacer DNA substrates. The protein complex creates a curved binding surface spanning the length of the DNA and splays the ends of the protospacer to allow each terminal nucleophilic 3'-OH to enter a channel leading into the Cas1 active sites. Phosphodiester backbone interactions between the protospacer and the proteins explain the sequence-nonspecific substrate selection observed in vivo. Our results uncover the structural basis for foreign DNA capture and the mechanism by which Cas1-Cas2 functions as a molecular ruler to dictate the sequence architecture of CRISPR loci.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item