The CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and Cas (CRISPR-associated) genes are widely spread in bacteria and archaea, representing an intracellular defence system against invading viruses and plasmids. In the system, fragments from foreign DNA are captured and integrated into the host genome at the CRISPR locus. The locus is transcribed and the resulting RNAs are processed by Cas6 into small crRNAs (CRISPR RNAs) that guide a variety of effector complexes to degrade the invading genetic elements. Many bacteria and archaea have one major type of effector complex. However, Sulfolobus solfataricus strain P2 has six CRISPR loci with two families of repeats, four cas6 genes and three different types of effector complex. These features make S. solfataricus an important model for studying CRISPR–Cas systems. In the present article, we review our current understanding of crRNA biogenesis and its effector complexes, subtype I-A and subtype III-B, in S. solfataricus. We also discuss the differences in terms of mechanisms between the subtype III-B systems in S. solfataricus and Pyrococcus furiosus.

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