Discovery of multiple anti-CRISPRs highlights anti-defense gene clustering in mobile genetic elements

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Many prokaryotes employ CRISPR–Cas systems to combat invading mobile genetic elements (MGEs). In response, some MGEs have developed strategies to bypass immunity, including anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins; yet the diversity, distribution and spectrum of activity of this immune evasion strategy remain largely unknown. Here, we report the discovery of new Acrs by assaying candidate genes adjacent to a conserved Acr-associated (Aca) gene, aca5, against a panel of six type I systems: I–F (Pseudomonas, Pectobacterium, and Serratia), I–E (Pseudomonas and Serratia), and I–C (Pseudomonas). We uncover 11 type I–F and/or I–E anti-CRISPR genes encoded on chromosomal and extrachromosomal MGEs within Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonas, and an additional Aca (aca9). The acr genes not only associate with other acr genes, but also with genes encoding inhibitors of distinct bacterial defense systems. Thus, our findings highlight the potential exploitation of acr loci neighborhoods for the identification of previously undescribed anti-defense systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5652
JournalNature Communications
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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