Science (Nov 16 2018)
CRISPR-Cas systems provide microbes with adaptive immunity to infectious nucleic acids and are widely employed as genome editing tools. These tools utilize RNA-guided Cas proteins whose large size (950-1400 amino acids) has been considered essential to their specific DNA- or RNA-targeting activities. Here we present a set of CRISPR-Cas systems from uncultivated archaea that contain Cas14, a family of exceptionally compact RNA-guided nucleases (400-700 amino acids). Despite their small size, Cas14 proteins are capable of targeted single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) cleavage without restrictive sequence requirements. Moreover, target recognition by Cas14 triggers non-specific cutting of ssDNA molecules, an activity that enables high-fidelity SNP genotyping (Cas14-DETECTR). Metagenomic data show that multiple CRISPR-Cas14 systems evolved independently and suggest a potential evolutionary origin of single-effector CRISPR-based adaptive immunity.