The adaptive immune system of prokaryotes, called CRISPR-Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated genes), results in specific cleavage of invading nucleic acid sequences recognized by the cell’s “memory” of past encounters. Here, we exploited the properties of native CRISPR-Cas systems to program the natural “memorization” process, efficiently generating immunity not only to a bacteriophage or plasmid but to any specifically chosen DNA sequence.
IMPORTANCECRISPR-Cas systems have entered the public consciousness as genome editing tools due to their readily programmable nature. In industrial settings, natural CRISPR-Cas immunity is already exploited to generate strains resistant to potentially disruptive viruses. However, the natural process by which bacteria acquire new target specificities (adaptation) is difficult to study and manipulate. The target against which immunity is conferred is selected stochastically. By biasing the immunization process, we offer a means to generate customized immunity, as well as provide a new tool to study adaptation.