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A Good Defense Is Worth Stealing

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One widely-used tactic for defense against phage and other mobile genetic elements is to deploy a CRISPR-Cas system (click here and here) to recognize and chop them into pieces. Based on sequenced genomes, 60% of Bacteria and 90% of Archaea have the wherewithal to dispatch invaders this way. But phages also have to protect themselves against enemies, including other mobile elements. Knowing a good thing when they see it—and they have seen it from the receiving end often—some phages have stolen the entire CRISPR-Cas structure and use it to inactivate genetic elements that would interfere with their replication.

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