Applications of CRISPR-Cas in its natural habitat
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Key components of CRISPR-Cas systems have been adapted into a powerful genome-editing tool that has caught the headlines and the attention of the public. Canonically, a customized RNA serves to guide an endonuclease (e.g. Cas9) to its DNA target, resulting in precise genomic lesions that can be repaired in a personalized fashion by cellular machinery. Here, we turn to the microbes that are the source of this system to explore many of its other notable applications. These include mining the CRISPR 'memory' arrays for functional genomic data, generation of customized virus-resistant or plasmid-refractory bacterial cells, editing of previously intractable viral genomes, and exploiting the unique properties of a catalytically inactive Cas9, dCas9, to serve as a highly customizable anti-nucleic acid 'antibody'.
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