CRISPR-Cas Systems in Multicellular Cyanobacteria

<p>Novel CRISPR-Cas systems possess substantial potential for genome editing and manipulation of gene expression. The types and numbers of CRISPR-Cas systems vary substantially between different organisms. Some filamentous cyanobacteria harbor >40 different putative CRISPR repeat-spacer cassettes, while the number of <i>cas</i> gene instances is much lower. Here we addressed the types and diversity of CRISPR-Cas systems and of CRISPR-like repeat-spacer arrays in 171 publicly available genomes of multicellular cyanobacteria. The number of 1328 repeat-spacer arrays exceeded the total of 391 encoded Cas1 proteins suggesting a tendency for fragmentation or the involvement of alternative adaptation factors. The model cyanobacterium <i>Anabaena</i> sp. PCC 7120 contains only three <i>cas1</i> genes but hosts at least three Class 1, one Class 2 and five orphan repeat-spacer arrays, all of which exhibit crRNA-typical expression patterns suggesting active transcription, maturation and incorporation into CRISPR complexes. The CRISPR-Cas system within the element interrupting the <i>Anabaena</i> sp. PCC 7120 <i>fdxN</i> gene, as well as analogous arrangements in other strains, occupy the genetic elements that become excised during the differentiation-related programmed site-specific recombination. This fact indicates the propensity of these elements for the integration of CRISPR-<i>cas</i> systems and points to a previously not recognized connection. The possible Class 2 effector protein gene <i>all3613</i> is linked to a short repeat-spacer array and a single tRNA gene, similar to its homologs in other cyanobacteria. The diversity, high number and presence of CRISPR-Cas systems in DNA elements that are programmed for homologous recombination make filamentous cyanobacteria a prolific resource for their study.</p>