CRISPR-Cas represents the only adaptive immune system of prokaryotes known to date. These immune systems are widespread among bacteria and archaea, and provide protection against invasion of mobile genetic elements, such as bacteriophages and plasmids. As a result of the arms-race between phages and their prokaryotic hosts, phages have evolved inhibitors known as anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins to evade CRISPR immunity. In the recent years, several Acr proteins have been described in both temperate and virulent phages targeting diverse CRISPR-Cas systems. Here, we describe the strategies of Acr discovery and the multiple molecular mechanisms by which these proteins operate to inhibit CRISPR immunity. We discuss the biological relevance of Acr proteins and speculate on the implications of their activity for the development of improved CRISPR-based research and biotechnological tools.
- genome editing