Adaptation in CRISPR-Cas Systems

Samuel H. Sternberg, Hagen Richter, Emmanuelle Charpentier*, Udi Qimron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins constitute an adaptive immune system in prokaryotes. The system preserves memories of prior infections by integrating short segments of foreign DNA, termed spacers, into the CRISPR array in a process termed adaptation. During the past 3 years, significant progress has been made on the genetic requirements and molecular mechanisms of adaptation. Here we review these recent advances, with a focus on the experimental approaches that have been developed, the insights they generated, and a proposed mechanism for self- versus non-self-discrimination during the process of spacer selection. We further describe the regulation of adaptation and the protein players involved in this fascinating process that allows bacteria and archaea to harbor adaptive immunity. Sternberg et al. review how CRISPR-Cas immune systems acquire memory of infections. They discuss recent advances in the field, including methods to detect memorization, features of the process in the different CRISPR-Cas subtypes, structural insights of the memorization machinery, and mechanisms to avoid self-memorization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-808
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2016


FundersFunder number
Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung
Göran Gustafssons Stiftelser
European Research Council336079
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Israel Science Foundation268/14
Umeå Universitet
Ministry of Health, State of Israel9988-3
Helmholtz Association


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