Modularity and Hierarchy in CRISPR-Cas Target Recognition

Applied Physics Graduate Program, Rice University (Houston, TX)

M.E. Bonomo & M.W. Deem

Doctoral Research, Spring 2016 – Present

CRISPR – clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats – is an immune system mechanism found in microorganisms, like bacteria.  It consists of an immunological memory stored in the bacteria’s genome with Cas – CRISPR associated – proteins that carry out the adaptation, expression, and interference functions. Viruses attempt to infect a bacteria cell by injecting their DNA into it, however the CRISPR is able to specifically recognize the viral DNA and cut it to stop the infection.

The bacteria’s CRISPR-Cas immune mechanism utilizes three hierarchical modules that recognize and cut the genetic material of invading viruses to protect the bacteria cell from infection. We are deriving a theoretical model of this process to understand the benefit of modularity in helping CRISPR specifically and efficiently find virus targets.


Oral Presentations:

  • Annual Smalley-Curl Institute Summer Research Colloquium (Houston, TX) 10 August 2018.
  • Annual Meeting of the International Physics of Living Systems Network (Houston, TX) 23 June 2018.
  • American Physical Society Annual March Meeting (Los Angeles, CA) 9 March 2018.
  • 2nd Annual Smalley-Curl Institute Transdisciplinary Symposium (Houston, TX) 9 February 2017.