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      The CRISPRdb database and tools to display CRISPRs and to generate dictionaries of spacers and repeats

      1 , 1 , 2 , 1 ,
      BMC Bioinformatics
      BioMed Central

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          In Archeae and Bacteria, the repeated elements called CRISPRs for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats" are believed to participate in the defence against viruses. Short sequences called spacers are stored in-between repeated elements. In the current model, motifs comprising spacers and repeats may target an invading DNA and lead to its degradation through a proposed mechanism similar to RNA interference. Analysis of intra-species polymorphism shows that new motifs (one spacer and one repeated element) are added in a polarised fashion. Although their principal characteristics have been described, a lot remains to be discovered on the way CRISPRs are created and evolve. As new genome sequences become available it appears necessary to develop automated scanning tools to make available CRISPRs related information and to facilitate additional investigations.


          We have produced a program, CRISPRFinder, which identifies CRISPRs and extracts the repeated and unique sequences. Using this software, a database is constructed which is automatically updated monthly from newly released genome sequences. Additional tools were created to allow the alignment of flanking sequences in search for similarities between different loci and to build dictionaries of unique sequences. To date, almost six hundred CRISPRs have been identified in 475 published genomes. Two Archeae out of thirty-seven and about half of Bacteria do not possess a CRISPR. Fine analysis of repeated sequences strongly supports the current view that new motifs are added at one end of the CRISPR adjacent to the putative promoter.


          It is hoped that availability of a public database, regularly updated and which can be queried on the web will help in further dissecting and understanding CRISPR structure and flanking sequences evolution. Subsequent analyses of the intra-species CRISPR polymorphism will be facilitated by CRISPRFinder and the dictionary creator. CRISPRdb is accessible at http://crispr.u-psud.fr/crispr

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          Most cited references21

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          Intervening sequences of regularly spaced prokaryotic repeats derive from foreign genetic elements.

          Prokaryotes contain short DN repeats known as CRISPR, recognizable by the regular spacing existing between the recurring units. They represent the most widely distributed family of repeats among prokaryotic genomes suggesting a biological function. The origin of the intervening sequences, at present unknown, could provide clues about their biological activities. Here we show that CRISPR spacers derive from preexisting sequences, either chromosomal or within transmissible genetic elements such as bacteriophages and conjugative plasmids. Remarkably, these extrachromosomal elements fail to infect the specific spacer-carrier strain, implying a relationship between CRISPR and immunity against targeted DNA. Bacteriophages and conjugative plasmids are involved in prokaryotic population control, evolution, and pathogenicity. All these biological traits could be influenced by the presence of specific spacers. CRISPR loci can be visualized as mosaics of a repeated unit, separated by sequences at some time present elsewhere in the cell.
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            Clustered regularly interspaced short palindrome repeats (CRISPRs) have spacers of extrachromosomal origin.

            Numerous prokaryote genomes contain structures known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), composed of 25-50 bp repeats separated by unique sequence spacers of similar length. CRISPR structures are found in the vicinity of four genes named cas1 to cas4. In silico analysis revealed another cluster of three genes associated with CRISPR structures in many bacterial species, named here as cas1B, cas5 and cas6, and also revealed a certain number of spacers that have homology with extant genes, most frequently derived from phages, but also derived from other extrachromosomal elements. Sequence analysis of CRISPR structures from 24 strains of Streptococcus thermophilus and Streptococcus vestibularis confirmed the homology of spacers with extrachromosomal elements. Phage sensitivity of S. thermophilus strains appears to be correlated with the number of spacers in the CRISPR locus the strain carries. The authors suggest that the spacer elements are the traces of past invasions by extrachromosomal elements, and hypothesize that they provide the cell immunity against phage infection, and more generally foreign DNA expression, by coding an anti-sense RNA. The presence of gene fragments in CRISPR structures and the nuclease motifs in cas genes of both cluster types suggests that CRISPR formation involves a DNA degradation step.
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              CRISPR elements in Yersinia pestis acquire new repeats by preferential uptake of bacteriophage DNA, and provide additional tools for evolutionary studies.

              The remarkable repetitive elements called CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) consist of repeats interspaced with non-repetitive elements or 'spacers'. CRISPRs are present in both archaea and bacteria, in association with genes involved in DNA recombination and repair. In the Yersinia pestis genome, three such elements are found at three distinct loci, one of them being highly polymorphic. The authors have sequenced a total of 109 alleles of the three Y. pestis CRISPRs and they describe 29 new spacers, most being specific to one isolate. In nine strains of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, 132 spacers were found, of which only three are common to Y. pestis isolates. In Y. pestis of the Orientalis biovar investigated in detail here, deletion of motifs is observed but it appears that addition of new motifs to a common ancestral element is the most frequent event. This takes place at the three different loci, although at a higher rate in one of the loci, and the addition of new motifs is polarized. Interestingly, the most recently acquired spacers were found to have a homologue at another locus in the genome, the majority of these inside an inactive prophage. This is believed to be the first time that the origin of the spacers in CRISPR elements has been explained. The CRISPR structure provides a new and robust identification tool.

                Author and article information

                BMC Bioinformatics
                BMC Bioinformatics
                BioMed Central (London )
                23 May 2007
                : 8
                : 172
                [1 ]Univ Paris-Sud, Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, UMR 8621, Orsay, F-91405, France; CNRS, Orsay, F-91405, France
                [2 ]Centre d'Etudes du Bouchet, 5 rue Lavoisier, 91710 Vert le Petit, France
                Copyright © 2007 Grissa et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 5 January 2007
                : 23 May 2007

                Bioinformatics & Computational biology
                Bioinformatics & Computational biology


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