Haloarcula hispanicaCRISPR authenticates PAM of a target sequence to prime discriminative adaptation

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The prokaryotic immune system CRISPR/Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR-associated genes) adapts to foreign invaders by acquiring their short deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fragments as spacers, which guide subsequent interference to foreign nucleic acids based on sequence matching. The adaptation mechanism avoiding acquiring ‘self’ DNA fragments is poorly understood. InHaloarcula hispanica, we previously showed that CRISPR adaptation requires being primed by a pre-existing spacer partially matching the invader DNA. Here, we further demonstrate that flanking a fully-matched target sequence, a functional PAM (protospacer adjacent motif) is still required to prime adaptation. Interestingly, interference utilizes only four PAM sequences, whereas adaptation-priming tolerates as many as 23 PAM sequences. This relaxed PAM selectivity explains how adaptation-priming maximizes its tolerance of PAM mutations (that escape interference) while avoiding mis-targeting the spacer DNA within CRISPR locus. We propose that the primed adaptation, which hitches and cooperates with the interference pathway, distinguishes target from non-target by CRISPR ribonucleic acid guidance and PAM recognition.

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