Joint research conducted by Danisco and one of Canada’s top research institutions, Université Laval, has shed light on the mechanisms behind the natural bacterial immune system CRISPR/Cas. The findings, published today in the scientific journal Nature, highlight the system’s valuable potential as a simple, natural way to generate more robust organisms with built-in resistance to virus attack.
Working with external scientific partners, Danisco has pioneered research into CRISPR – clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats - and CRISPR-associated genes (Cas). The joint study with Université Laval’s scientific team, led by Sylvain Moineau, investigated the natural CRISPR defence mechanisms in Streptococcus thermophilus – a bacterium widely used in yogurt cultures.
”We found that the CRISPR/Cas system is responsible for cleaving bacteriophage and plasmid DNA. It is this cleavage activity that gives certain strains their bacteriophage immunity,” says Rodolphe Barrangou, senior scientist at Danisco.
Based on these results, it is believed CRISPR/Cas can be used to generate bacteria that neither acquire nor spread antibiotic-resistance genes.
”This is a great new episode in the Danisco CRISPR story, giving us additional knowledge of value towards the development of safer, more robust bacterial strains,” says Barrangou.
Major application potential
For the food industry, the immune system represents opportunities to develop bacteriophage-resistant cultures – a powerful new tool in, for example, yogurt and cheese manufacture where bacteriophages are the number one threat to successful processing. New strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria are among the many other application possibilities.
Danisco has co-authored several scientific papers on CRISPR and is a co-organiser and sponsor of the annual CRISPR conferences. Barrangou and Philippe Horvath, senior scientists, were speakers at the 2010 event staged last month in the Netherlands.
For more information,
Richard Donovan, communication manager, Cultures division
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