CRISPR-Associated Primase-Polymerases

CRISPR-Cas pathways provide prokaryotes with acquired “immunity” against foreign genetic elements, including phages and plasmids. Although many of the proteins associated with CRISPR-Cas mechanisms are characterized, some requisite enzymes remain elusive. Genetic studies have implicated host DNA polymerases in some CRISPR-Cas systems but CRISPR-specific replicases have not yet been discovered. We have identified and characterised a family of CRISPR-Associated Primase-Polymerases (CAPPs) in a range of prokaryotes that are operonically associated with Cas1 and Cas2. CAPPs belong to the Primase-Polymerase (Prim-Pol) superfamily of replicases that operate in various DNA repair and replication pathways that maintain genome stability.

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Fig: Bioinformatic analysis of CRISPR-associated Prim-Pols

Here, we characterise the DNA synthesis activities of bacterial CAPP homologues from Type IIIA and IIIB CRISPR-Cas systems and establish that they possess a range of replicase activities including DNA priming, polymerisation and strand-displacement. We demonstrate that CAPPs operonically-associated partners, Cas1 and Cas2, form a complex that possesses spacer integration activity. We show that CAPPs physically associate with the Cas proteins to form bespoke CRISPR-Cas complexes. Finally, we propose how CAPPs activities, in conjunction with their partners, may function to undertake key roles in CRISPR-Cas adaptation.

Zabrady, K., Zabrady, M., Kolesar, P. et al. CRISPR-Associated Primase-Polymerases are implicated in prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas adaptation.Nat Commun 12, 3690 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23535-9

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