RNA Biology 19(1) , 678-685 ( 2022)
Noncoding RNAs with secondary structures play important roles in CRISPR-Cas systems. Many of these structures likely remain undiscovered. We used a large-scale comparative genomics approach to predict 156 novel candidate structured RNAs from 36,111 CRISPR-Cas systems. A number of these were found to overlap with coding genes, including palindromic candidates that overlapped with a variety of Cas genes in type I and III systems. Among these 156 candidates, we identified 46 new models of CRISPR direct repeats and 1 tracrRNA. This tracrRNA model occasionally overlapped with predicted cas9 coding regions, emphasizing the importance of expanding our search windows for novel structure RNAs in coding regions. We also demonstrated that the antirepeat sequence in this tracrRNA model can be used to accurately assign thousands of predicted CRISPR arrays to type II-C systems. This study highlights the importance of unbiased identification of candidate structured RNAs across CRISPR-Cas systems.