Host–pathogen co-evolution is a significant force which shapes the ecology and evolution of all types of organisms, and such interactions are driven by resistance and immunity mechanisms of the host. Diversity of resistance and immunity can affect the co-evolutionary trajectory of both host and pathogen. The microbial CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)–Cas (CRISPR-associated) system is one host immunity mechanism which offers a tractable model for examining the dynamics of diversity in an immune system. In the present article, we review CRISPR variation observed in a variety of natural populations, examine the forces which can push CRISPRs towards high or low diversity, and investigate the consequences of various levels of diversity on microbial populations.

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