The discovery of the prokaryotic immune system CRISPR-Cas was one of the most exciting breakthroughs in biology in the last twenty years. Initially identified as defence mechanism, we now know that defence is just one of many functions of this molecular machine. Thus, the prevailing view of CRISPR-Cas as a defence system is too narrow. Other important cellular processes are carried out by the CRISPR-Cas system, such as virulence regulation, DNA repair and the regulation of group behaviour, to name only a few. In some cases, CRISPR-Cas systems may even have completely lost their immune-related functions. At this time, we have barely begun to understand the full biological potential of this system. Thus far, the new CRISPR-Cas functions have primarily been discovered fortuitously and systematic approaches to detect roles beyond immunity are lacking. The two major goals of this concerted Priority Programme are: (i) the identification and investigation of new CRISPR-Cas functions beyond viral defence using model representatives of archaea and bacteria; (ii) the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying these novel functions using state-of-the-art methods. The cooperation of researchers from different disciplines, such as microbiology, genetics, medical microbiology, biochemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, ecology, structural biology, molecular dynamics, single-molecule localisation microscopy and single-molecule biochemistry, will provide the framework for a successful Priority Programme.
Period of funding: 01.11.2018 - 31.10.2021
Speaker: Anita Marchfelder, Ulm University