Abstract #479

# 479
Mining and exploiting CRISPR-Cas systems in lactic acid bacteria.
A. Briner*1, R. Barrangou1, 1North Carolina State University,.

Dairy starter cultures have long been engaged in an evolutionary arms-race against nucleic acid-based intruders like phages and plasmids. While dairy microorganisms have many forms of protection against foreign invaders, their adaptive immune systems, or CRISPR-Cas systems, arguably hold the most potential for developing better starter cultures both through natural immune function and via exploitation of the native Cas machinery for biotechnological purposes. Since the discovery of CRISPR-Cas as a bacterial immune system in 2007, we have begun to understand that CRISPR-Cas systems preferentially occur in many dairy-related organisms, like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus casei, and probiotics, like Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, likely due to the overwhelming phage burden found in fermentation environments. After a decade of investigating the genetics, biology, and application of CRISPR-Cas machinery, these systems are now used to enhance phage resistance, increase resolution in strain typing, vaccinate strains against specific undesirable sequences, select rare variants through genetic screening, perform large-scale genetic remodeling, selectively kill microbes for next-generation antibiotics, and genetically engineer strains. In this talk, we will highlight the major historical milestones in of CRISPR research, discuss the various applications in dairy bacteria, and show how this technology is revolutionizing the food industry.

Key Words: CRISPR, starter cultures, lactic acid bacteria

Speaker Bio
Alexandra Briner is a PhD student under the advisement of Dr Rodolphe Barrangou at North Carolina State Unviersity.  She has been working to characterize CRISPR-Cas systems in lactic acid bacteria to better understand the biology of these adaptive immune systems and to exploit these systems to develop better starter cultures and probiotics.