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Optimal Number Of Spacers In CRISPR Arrays

By Alexander Martynov, Konstantin Severinov, Yaroslav Ispolatov

Posted 29 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/143073 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005891)

We estimate the number of spacers in a CRISPR array of a bacterium which maximizes its protection against a viral attack. The optimality follows from a competition between two trends: too few distinct spacers make the bacteria vulnerable to an attack by a virus with mutated corresponding protospacers, while an excessive variety of spacers dilutes the number of the CRISPR complexes armed with the most recent and thus most effective spacers. We first evaluate the optimal number of spacers in a simple scenario of an infection by a single viral species and later consider a more general case of multiple viral species. We find that depending on such parameters as the concentration of CRISPR-CAS interference complexes and its preference to arm with more recently acquired spacers, the rate of viral mutation, and the number of viral species, the predicted optimal array length lies within a range quite reasonable from the viewpoint of recent experiments.

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