Streptococcus thermophilus (St) type III-A CRISPR-Cas system restricts MS2 RNA phage and cuts RNA in vitro. However, the CRISPR array spacers match DNA phages, raising the question: does the St CRISPR-Cas system provide immunity by erasing phage mRNA or/and by eliminating invading DNA? We show that it does both. We find that (1) base-pairing between crRNA and target RNA activates single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) degradation by StCsm; (2) ssDNase activity is confined to the HD-domain of Cas10; (3) target RNA cleavage by the Csm3 RNase suppresses Cas10 DNase activity, ensuring temporal control of DNA degradation; and (4) base-pairing between crRNA 5'-handle and target RNA 3'-flanking sequence inhibits Cas10 ssDNase to prevent self-targeting. We propose that upon phage infection, crRNA-guided StCsm binding to the emerging transcript recruits Cas10 DNase to the actively transcribed phage DNA, resulting in degradation of both the transcript and phage DNA, but not the host DNA. Kazlauskiene et al. report a mechanism for RNA-dependent DNA degradation by a type III-A CRISPR-Cas complex. Target RNA binding activates DNA degradation whereas subsequent RNA cleavage represses DNase activity, providing a spatiotemporal control. The complementarity of the 5' handle of crRNA to the target RNA, but not DNA, protects host DNA from degradation.
Kazlauskiene, M., Tamulaitis, G., Kostiuk, G., Venclovas, Č., & Siksnys, V. (2016). Spatiotemporal Control of Type III-A CRISPR-Cas Immunity: Coupling DNA Degradation with the Target RNA Recognition. Molecular Cell, 62(2), 295–306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2016.03.024