Discovery of widespread type I and type V CRISPR-Cas inhibitors

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 240-242
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau5174

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Cas12 inhibitors join the anti-CRISPR family

Bacteria and their phages continually coevolve in a molecular arms race. For example, phages use anti-CRISPR proteins to inhibit the bacterial type I and II CRISPR systems (see the Perspective by Koonin and Makarova). Watters et al. and Marino et al. used bioinformatic and experimental approaches to identify inhibitors of type V CRISPR-Cas12a. Cas12a has been successfully engineered for gene editing and nucleic acid detection. Some of the anti-Cas12a proteins identified in these studies had broad-spectrum inhibitory effects on Cas12a orthologs and could block Cas12a-mediated genome editing in human cells.

Science, this issue p. 236, p. 240; see also p. 156


Bacterial CRISPR-Cas systems protect their host from bacteriophages and other mobile genetic elements. Mobile elements, in turn, encode various anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins to inhibit the immune function of CRISPR-Cas. To date, Acr proteins have been discovered for type I (subtypes I-D, I-E, and I-F) and type II (II-A and II-C) but not other CRISPR systems. Here, we report the discovery of 12 acr genes, including inhibitors of type V-A and I-C CRISPR systems. AcrVA1 inhibits a broad spectrum of Cas12a (Cpf1) orthologs—including MbCas12a, Mb3Cas12a, AsCas12a, and LbCas12a—when assayed in human cells. The acr genes reported here provide useful biotechnological tools and mark the discovery of acr loci in many bacteria and phages.

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