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Researchers discover biological basis of 'bacterial immune system'
Date:11/25/2009

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Understanding how the system silences invaders opens up opportunities to exploit it. So far, CRISPRs have been found in about half of the bacterial genomes that have been mapped or sequenced and in nearly all sequenced archaeal genomes. Such pervasiveness indicates that an ability to manipulate the CRISPR-Cas system could yield a broad range of applications. For example, using the knowledge that they have obtained in this work, the Terns now envision being able to design new CRISPR RNAs that will take advantage of the system to selectively cleave target RNAs in bacterial cells.

"These could target viruses that wipe out cultures of bacteria used by industry to produce enzymes," said Michael Terns, "or could target the gene products of the bacteria themselves. With this set of Cas proteins, we now know how to cut a target RNA at the site we choose."

"Believe it or not, we have only recently recognized that these microorganisms have a heritable immune system [because it is so different from our own]," added Rebecca Terns.

Remarkably, scientists are already in a position to begin to capitalize on their rapidly growing knowledge of this bacterial immune system.


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Contact: Phil Williams
phil@franklin.uga.edu
706-542-8501
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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