CRISPR-Cas systems are widespread accessory elements across bacterial and archaeal plasmids

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Many prokaryotes encode CRISPR-Cas systems as immune protection against mobile genetic elements (MGEs), yet a number of MGEs also harbor CRISPR-Cas components. With a few exceptions, CRISPR-Cas loci encoded on MGEs are uncharted and a comprehensive analysis of their distribution, prevalence, diversity, and function is lacking. Here, we systematically investigated CRISPR-Cas loci across the largest curated collection of natural bacterial and archaeal plasmids. CRISPR-Cas loci are widely but heterogeneously distributed across plasmids and, in comparison to host chromosomes, their mean prevalence per Mbp is higher and their distribution is distinct. Furthermore, the spacer content of plasmid CRISPRs exhibits a strong targeting bias towards other plasmids, while chromosomal arrays are enriched with virus-targeting spacers. These contrasting targeting preferences highlight the genetic independence of plasmids and suggest a major role for mediating plasmid-plasmid conflicts. Altogether, CRISPR-Cas are frequent accessory components of many plasmids, which is an overlooked phenomenon that possibly facilitates their dissemination across microbiomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)4315-4328
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.

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