Since their discovery over a decade ago, the class of prokaryotic immune systems known as CRISPR–Cas have afforded a suite of genetic tools that have revolutionized research in model organisms spanning all domains of life. CRISPR-mediated tools have also emerged for the natural targets of CRISPR–Cas immunity, the viruses that specifically infect bacteria, or phages. Despite their status as the most abundant biological entities on the planet, the majority of phage genes have unassigned functions. This reality underscores the need for robust genetic tools to study them. Recent reports have demonstrated that CRISPR–Cas systems, specifically the three major types (I, II, and III), can be harnessed to genetically engineer phages that infect diverse hosts. Here, the mechanisms of each of these systems, specific strategies used, and phage editing efficacies will be reviewed. Due to the relatively wide distribution of CRISPR–Cas systems across bacteria and archaea, it is anticipated that these immune systems will provide generally applicable tools that will advance the mechanistic understanding of prokaryotic viruses and accelerate the development of novel technologies based on these ubiquitous organisms.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited