CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity against phages in prokaryotes via DNA-encoded, RNA-mediated, nuclease-dependent targeting and cleavage. Due to inefficient and relatively limited DNA repair pathways in bacteria, CRISPR-Cas systems can be repurposed for lethal DNA targeting that selects for sequence variants. In this study, the relative killing efficiencies of endogenous Type I and Type II CRISPR-Cas systems in the model organism Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 were assessed. Additionally, the genetic and phenotypic outcomes of chromosomal targeting by plasmid-programmed Type I-E or Type II-A systems were analyzed. Efficient killing was observed using both systems, in a dose-dependent manner when delivering 0.4-400 ng of plasmid DNA. Targeted PCR screening and genome sequencing were used to determine the genetic basis enabling survival, showing that evasion of Type I-E self-targeting was primarily the result of low-frequency defective plasmids that excised the targeting spacer. The most notable genotype recovered from Type II-A targeting of genomic locus, lacZ, was a 34 kb-deletion derived from homologous recombination (HR) between identical conserved sequences in two separate galE coding regions, resulting in 2% loss of the genome. Collectively, these results suggest that HR contributes to the plasticity and remodeling of bacterial genomes, leading to evasion of genome targeting by CRISPR-Cas systems. © FEMS 2019.
Journal: FEMS microbiology letters