Health – UConn Today
Recently published research from UConn Health and the University of Georgia provides new insight about the basic biological mechanisms of the RNA-based viral immune system known as CRISPR-Cas.
CRISPR-Cas, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR-associated, is a defense mechanism that has evolved in bacteria and archaea that these single celled organisms use to ward off attacks from viruses and other invaders. When a bacterium is attacked by a virus, it makes a record of the virus’s DNA by chopping it up into pieces and incorporating a small segment of the invader’s DNA into its own genome. It then uses this DNA to make RNAs that bind with a bacterial protein that then kills the viral DNA.
The system has been studied worldwide in hopes that it can be used to edit genes that predispose humans to countless diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. However, to reach this end goal, scientists must gain further understanding of the basic biological process that leads to successful immunity against the invading virus.
Brenton Graveley, professor and chair of the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences and associate director of the Institute for Systems Genomics at UConn Health.Brenton Graveley and Sandra Garrett at UConn Health collaborated with Michael Terns and Masami Shiimori of University of Georgia to sequence millions of genomes to learn more about the process. Graveley is professor and chair of the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences and associate director of the Institute for Systems Genomics at UConn Health, and Garrett is a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory.
“In this project we were able to determine how the bacterial immune system creates a molecular memory to remove harmful viral DNA sequences and how this is passed down to the bacterial progeny,” said Graveley.
Previously, researchers did not understand how the cell recognized the virus as an …