Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) systems provide the adaptive antiviral immunity against invasive genetic elements in archaea and bacteria. These immune systems are divided into at least six different types, among which Type III CRISPR–Cas systems show several distinct antiviral activities as demonstrated from the investigation of bacterial III-A and archaeal III-B systems in the past decade. First, although initial experiments suggested that III-A systems provided DNA interference activity, whereas III-B system was active only in RNA interference, these immune systems were subsequently found to mediate the transcription-dependent DNA interference and the dual DNA/RNA interference. Second, their ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes show target RNA (tgRNA) cleavage by a ruler mechanism and RNA-activated indiscriminate single-stranded DNA cleavage, the latter of which is subjected to spatiotemporal regulation such that the DNase activity occurs only at the right place in the right time. Third, RNPs of Type III systems catalyse the synthesis of cyclic oligoadenylates (cOAs) that function as second messengers to activate Csm6 and Csx1, both of which are potent Cas accessory RNases after activation. To date, Type III CRISPR systems are the only known antiviral immunity that utilizes multiple interference mechanisms for antiviral defence.

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