Type III CRISPR-Cas systems recognize and degrade RNA molecules using an RNA-guided mechanism that occurs widely in microbes for adaptive immunity against viruses. The inventors have demonstrated that this multi-protein system can be leveraged for programmable RNA knockdown of both nuclear and cytoplasmic transcripts in mammalian cells. Using single-vector delivery of the S. thermophilus Csm complex, RNA knockdown was achieved with high efficiency (90-99%) and minimal off-targets, outperforming existing technologies of shRNA- and Cas13-mediated knockdown. Furthermore, unlike Cas13, Csm is devoid of trans-cleavage activity and thus does not induce non-specific transcriptome-wide degradation and cytotoxicity. Catalytically inactivated Csm can also be used for programmable RNA-binding, which the inventors exploit for live-cell RNA imaging. This work demonstrates the feasibility and efficacy of multi-subunit CRISPR-Cas effector complexes as RNA-targeting tools in eukaryotes.