The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and their associated proteins (Cas) are immune systems in prokaryotes present in most Bacteria and Archaea. They provide adaptive immunity against foreign elements such as bacteriophages/viruses, plasmids and transposons. During immunization a small sequence of foreign DNA, a so-called spacer is integrated into the CRISPR locus in the host cell. Spacers are then transcribed into small RNA guides that direct cleavage of foreign DNA by Cas nucleases. Immunization through spacer acquisition is transferred vertically to the progeny. It is possible that this genetic immune system of bacteria participates in modulating the microbiome of ‘chronic’ periodontitis, in which Porphyromonas gingivalis has been identified as a keystone pathogen causing microbial dysbiosis. An in-depth review of our current knowledge on the CRISPR-Cas systems in P. gingivalis is given in this paper with the attempt to understand how this anaerobic bacterium may protect itself in the periodontal pocket where bacteriophages are abundant and even out-number bacteria.
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