Understanding bacterial immune systems

2011

Challenge

Bacteria have extremely diverse and rapidly evolving antivirus defense systems that remain poorly understood. Without more detailed characterization of these systems and the evolutionary dynamics of bacteria, doctors would continue struggling against the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Advance

IRP researchers led by Eugene Koonin, Ph.D., developed an evolutionary classification of bacterial adaptive immunity systems. Koonin and colleagues then created a mathematical model of virus-host co-evolution that identifies conditions under which bacteria maintain or lose adaptive immunity.

Impact

Microbiologists quickly adopted the new classification of bacterial immunity systems as a framework for research in the field. Researchers can use the mathematical model of virus-host co-evolution to predict bacteriophage resistance and antibiotic resistance.

Publications

Makarova KS, Haft DH, Barrangou R, Brouns SJ, Charpentier E, Horvath P, Moineau S, Mojica FJ, Wolf YI, Yakunin AF, van der Oost J, Koonin EV. (2011). Evolution and classification of the CRISPR-Cas systems. Nat Rev Microbiol. 9(6), 467-77.

Weinberger AD, Wolf YI, Lobkovsky AE, Gilmore MS, Koonin EV. (2012). Viral diversity threshold for adaptive immunity in prokaryotes. MBio. 3(6), e00456-12.