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Specificities of and functional coordination between the two Cas6 maturation endonucleases in Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 assign orphan CRISPR arrays to three groups

By Viktoria Reimann, Marcus Ziemann, Hui Li, Tao Zhu, Juliane Behler, Xuefeng Lu, Wolfgang R. Hess

Posted 15 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.14.041012 (published DOI: 10.1080/15476286.2020.1774197)

The majority of bacteria and archaea possess an RNA-guided adaptive and inheritable immune system against viruses and other foreign genetic elements that consists of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins. In most CRISPR-Cas systems, the maturation of CRISPR-derived small RNAs (crRNAs) is essential for functionality. In some bacteria, multiple instances of cas gene-free (orphan) repeat-spacer arrays exist, while additional instances of arrays that are linked to cas gene cassettes are present elsewhere in the genome. In the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120, ten CRISPR-Cas repeat-spacer arrays are present, but only two cas gene cassettes plus a Tn7-associated eleventh array are observed. In this study, we deleted the two cas6 genes alr1482 (Type III-D) or alr1566 (Type I-D) and tested the specificities of the two corresponding enzymes in the resulting mutant strains, as recombinant proteins and in a cell-free transcription-translation system. The results assign the direct repeats (DRs) to three different groups. While Alr1566 is specific for one group, Alr1482 has a higher preference for the DRs of the second group but can also cleave those of the first group. We found that this cross-recognition limits crRNA accumulation for the Type I-D system in vivo. We also show that the DR of the cas gene-free CRISPR array of cyanophage N-1 is processed by these enzymes, suggesting that it is fully competent in association with host-encoded Cas proteins. The data support a strong tendency for array fragmentation in multicellular cyanobacteria and disfavor other possibilities, such as the nonfunctionality of these orphan repeat-spacer arrays. Our data demonstrate the functional coordination of Cas6 endonucleases with both neighboring and remote repeat-spacer arrays in the CRISPR-Cas system of cyanobacteria. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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