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How bacteriophages avoid CRISPR-mediated demise

Most organisms on the planet, including single celled microbes, face the threat of being infected and killed by a virus. To protect themselves from their viruses (called bacteriophages), bacteria have developed immune systems like restriction-modification, CRISPR-Cas, and a plethora of others. Our group focuses on the discovery and characterization of mechanisms that phages use to counter immune processes in bacteria. Recent screening efforts have unveiled two advances in this area. First, the discovery of numerous anti-CRISPR enzymes that covalently modify CRISPR-Cas proteins or degrade the Cas protein effectors. Second, the observation that obligately lytic phages evade CRISPR and restriction enzymes in novel ways, including shielding their DNA from targeting, or repairing it after cleavage, as opposed to inhibiting CRISPR-Cas. Together, we hope that studies of strategies deployed by lytic and temperate phages will provide a comprehensive understanding of phageimmune interactions in bacteria and fortify phage therapeutics.