Bacterial CRISPR-Cas systems utilize sequence-specific RNA-guided nucleases to defend against bacteriophage infection. As a countermeasure, numerous phages are known that produce proteins to block the function of class 1 CRISPR-Cas systems. However, currently no proteins are known to inhibit the widely used class 2 CRISPR-Cas9 system. To find these inhibitors, we searched cas9-containing bacterial genomes for the co-existence of a CRISPR spacer and its target, a potential indicator for CRISPR inhibition. This analysis led to the discovery of four unique type II-A CRISPR-Cas9 inhibitor proteins encoded by Listeria monocytogenes prophages. More than half of L. monocytogenes strains with cas9 contain at least one prophage-encoded inhibitor, suggesting widespread CRISPR-Cas9 inactivation. Two of these inhibitors also blocked the widely used Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 when assayed in Escherichia coli and human cells. These natural Cas9-specific “anti-CRISPRs” present tools that can be used to regulate the genome engineering activities of CRISPR-Cas9.
- Cas9 inhibitor
- Listeria monocytogenes
- gene editing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)