The heterologous production of complex natural products is an approach designed to address current limitations and future possibilities. It is particularly useful for those compounds which possess therapeutic value but cannot be sufficiently produced or would benefit from an improved form of production. The experimental procedures involved can be subdivided into three components: 1) genetic transfer; 2) heterologous reconstitution; and 3) product analysis. Each experimental component is under continual optimization to meet the challenges and anticipate the opportunities associated with this emerging approach.
Heterologous biosynthesis begins with the identification of a genetic sequence responsible for a valuable natural product. Transferring this sequence to a heterologous host is complicated by the biosynthetic pathway complexity responsible for product formation. The antibiotic erythromycin A is a good example. Twenty genes (totaling >50 kb) are required for eventual biosynthesis. In addition, three of these genes encode megasynthases, multi-domain enzymes each ~300 kDa in size. This genetic material must be designed and transferred to E. coli for reconstituted biosynthesis. The use of PCR isolation, operon construction, multi-cystronic plasmids, and electro-transformation will be described in transferring the erythromycin A genetic cluster to E. coli.
Once transferred, the E. coli cell must support eventual biosynthesis. This process is also challenging given the substantial differences between E. coli and most original hosts responsible for complex natural product formation. The cell must provide necessary substrates to support biosynthesis and coordinately express the transferred genetic cluster to produce active enzymes. In the case of erythromycin A, the E. coli cell had to be engineered to provide the two precursors (propionyl-CoA and (2S)-methylmalonyl-CoA) required for biosynthesis. In addition, gene sequence modifications, plasmid copy number, chaperonin co-expression, post-translational enzymatic modification, and process temperature were also required to allow final erythromycin A formation.
Finally, successful production must be assessed. For the erythromycin A case, we will present two methods. The first is liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to confirm and quantify production. The bioactivity of erythromycin A will also be confirmed through use of a bioassay in which the antibiotic activity is tested against Bacillus subtilis. The assessment assays establish erythromycin A biosynthesis from E. coli and set the stage for future engineering efforts to improve or diversify production and for the production of new complex natural compounds using this approach.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Direct Restart of a Replication Fork Stalled by a Head-On RNA Polymerase
Institutions: Rockefeller University.
studies suggest that replication forks are arrested due to encounters with head-on transcription complexes. Yet, the fate of the replisome and RNA polymerase (RNAP) following a head-on collision is unknown. Here, we find that the E. coli
replisome stalls upon collision with a head-on transcription complex, but instead of collapsing, the replication fork remains highly stable and eventually resumes elongation after displacing the RNAP from DNA. We also find that the transcription-repair coupling factor, Mfd, promotes direct restart of the fork following the collision by facilitating displacement of the RNAP. These findings demonstrate the intrinsic stability of the replication apparatus and a novel role for the transcription-coupled repair pathway in promoting replication past a RNAP block.
Cellular Biology, Issue 38, replication, transcription, transcription-coupled repair, replisome, RNA polymerase, collision
Investigating Protein-protein Interactions in Live Cells Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.
Assays based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) provide a sensitive and reliable means to monitor protein-protein interactions in live cells. BRET is the non-radiative transfer of energy from a 'donor' luciferase enzyme to an 'acceptor' fluorescent protein. In the most common configuration of this assay, the donor is Renilla reniformis
luciferase and the acceptor is Yellow Fluorescent Protein (YFP). Because the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly distance-dependent, observation of the BRET phenomenon requires that the donor and acceptor be in close proximity. To test for an interaction between two proteins of interest in cultured mammalian cells, one protein is expressed as a fusion with luciferase and the second as a fusion with YFP. An interaction between the two proteins of interest may bring the donor and acceptor sufficiently close for energy transfer to occur. Compared to other techniques for investigating protein-protein interactions, the BRET assay is sensitive, requires little hands-on time and few reagents, and is able to detect interactions which are weak, transient, or dependent on the biochemical environment found within a live cell. It is therefore an ideal approach for confirming putative interactions suggested by yeast two-hybrid or mass spectrometry proteomics studies, and in addition it is well-suited for mapping interacting regions, assessing the effect of post-translational modifications on protein-protein interactions, and evaluating the impact of mutations identified in patient DNA.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Protein-protein interactions, Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Live cell, Transfection, Luciferase, Yellow Fluorescent Protein, Mutations
A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro
. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro
replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag
gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag
gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro
replication of chronically derived gag-pro
sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
DNA-affinity-purified Chip (DAP-chip) Method to Determine Gene Targets for Bacterial Two component Regulatory Systems
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
methods such as ChIP-chip are well-established techniques used to determine global gene targets for transcription factors. However, they are of limited use in exploring bacterial two component regulatory systems with uncharacterized activation conditions. Such systems regulate transcription only when activated in the presence of unique signals. Since these signals are often unknown, the in vitro
microarray based method described in this video article can be used to determine gene targets and binding sites for response regulators. This DNA-affinity-purified-chip method may be used for any purified regulator in any organism with a sequenced genome. The protocol involves allowing the purified tagged protein to bind to sheared genomic DNA and then affinity purifying the protein-bound DNA, followed by fluorescent labeling of the DNA and hybridization to a custom tiling array. Preceding steps that may be used to optimize the assay for specific regulators are also described. The peaks generated by the array data analysis are used to predict binding site motifs, which are then experimentally validated. The motif predictions can be further used to determine gene targets of orthologous response regulators in closely related species. We demonstrate the applicability of this method by determining the gene targets and binding site motifs and thus predicting the function for a sigma54-dependent response regulator DVU3023 in the environmental bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris
Genetics, Issue 89, DNA-Affinity-Purified-chip, response regulator, transcription factor binding site, two component system, signal transduction, Desulfovibrio, lactate utilization regulator, ChIP-chip
Generation of Enterobacter sp. YSU Auxotrophs Using Transposon Mutagenesis
Institutions: Youngstown State University.
Prototrophic bacteria grow on M-9 minimal salts medium supplemented with glucose (M-9 medium), which is used as a carbon and energy source. Auxotrophs can be generated using a transposome. The commercially available, Tn5
-derived transposome used in this protocol consists of a linear segment of DNA containing an R6Kγ
replication origin, a gene for kanamycin resistance and two mosaic sequence ends, which serve as transposase binding sites. The transposome, provided as a DNA/transposase protein complex, is introduced by electroporation into the prototrophic strain, Enterobacter
sp. YSU, and randomly incorporates itself into this host’s genome. Transformants are replica plated onto Luria-Bertani agar plates containing kanamycin, (LB-kan) and onto M-9 medium agar plates containing kanamycin (M-9-kan). The transformants that grow on LB-kan plates but not on M-9-kan plates are considered to be auxotrophs. Purified genomic DNA from an auxotroph is partially digested, ligated and transformed into a pir+ Escherichia coli
) strain. The R6Kγ
replication origin allows the plasmid to replicate in pir+ E. coli
strains, and the kanamycin resistance marker allows for plasmid selection. Each transformant possesses a new plasmid containing the transposon flanked by the interrupted chromosomal region. Sanger sequencing and the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) suggest a putative identity of the interrupted gene. There are three advantages to using this transposome mutagenesis strategy. First, it does not rely on the expression of a transposase gene by the host. Second, the transposome is introduced into the target host by electroporation, rather than by conjugation or by transduction and therefore is more efficient. Third, the R6Kγ
replication origin makes it easy to identify the mutated gene which is partially recovered in a recombinant plasmid. This technique can be used to investigate the genes involved in other characteristics of Enterobacter
sp. YSU or of a wider variety of bacterial strains.
Microbiology, Issue 92, Auxotroph, transposome, transposon, mutagenesis, replica plating, glucose minimal medium, complex medium, Enterobacter
Use of Stopped-Flow Fluorescence and Labeled Nucleotides to Analyze the ATP Turnover Cycle of Kinesins
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
The kinesin superfamily of microtubule associated motor proteins share a characteristic motor domain which both hydrolyses ATP and binds microtubules. Kinesins display differences across the superfamily both in ATP turnover and in microtubule interaction. These differences tailor specific kinesins to various functions such as cargo transport, microtubule sliding, microtubule depolymerization and microtubule stabilization. To understand the mechanism of action of a kinesin it is important to understand how the chemical cycle of ATP turnover is coupled to the mechanical cycle of microtubule interaction. To dissect the ATP turnover cycle, one approach is to utilize fluorescently labeled nucleotides to visualize individual steps in the cycle. Determining the kinetics of each nucleotide transition in the ATP turnover cycle allows the rate-limiting step or steps for the complete cycle to be identified. For a kinesin, it is important to know the rate-limiting step, in the absence of microtubules, as this step is generally accelerated several thousand fold when the kinesin interacts with microtubules. The cycle in the absence of microtubules is then compared to that in the presence of microtubules to fully understand a kinesin’s ATP turnover cycle. The kinetics of individual nucleotide transitions are generally too fast to observe by manually mixing reactants, particularly in the presence of microtubules. A rapid mixing device, such as a stopped-flow fluorimeter, which allows kinetics to be observed on timescales of as little as a few milliseconds, can be used to monitor such transitions. Here, we describe protocols in which rapid mixing of reagents by stopped-flow is used in conjunction with fluorescently labeled nucleotides to dissect the ATP turnover cycle of a kinesin.
Chemistry, Issue 92, Kinesin, ATP turnover, mantATP, mantADP, stopped-flow fluorescence, microtubules, enzyme kinetics, nucleotide
Subcloning Plus Insertion (SPI) - A Novel Recombineering Method for the Rapid Construction of Gene Targeting Vectors
Institutions: University of Leicester, Center for Fisheries, Environment and Aquaculture Sciences, University of Leicester.
Gene targeting refers to the precise modification of a genetic locus using homologous recombination. The generation of novel cell lines and transgenic mouse models using this method necessitates the construction of a ‘targeting’ vector, which contains homologous DNA sequences to the target gene, and has for many years been a limiting step in the process. Vector construction can be performed in vivo
in Escherichia coli
cells using homologous recombination mediated by phage recombinases using a technique termed recombineering. Recombineering is the preferred technique to subclone the long homology sequences (>4kb) and various targeting elements including selection markers that are required to mediate efficient allelic exchange between a targeting vector and its cognate genomic locus. Typical recombineering protocols follow an iterative scheme of step-wise integration of the targeting elements and require intermediate purification and transformation steps. Here, we present a novel recombineering methodology of vector assembly using a multiplex approach. Plasmid gap repair is performed by the simultaneous capture of genomic sequence from mouse Bacterial Artificial Chromosome libraries and the insertion of dual bacterial and mammalian selection markers. This subcloning plus insertion method is highly efficient and yields a majority of correct recombinants. We present data for the construction of different types of conditional gene knockout, or knock-in, vectors and BAC reporter vectors that have been constructed using this method. SPI vector construction greatly extends the repertoire of the recombineering toolbox and provides a simple, rapid and cost-effective method of constructing these highly complex vectors.
Molecular Biology, Issue 95, recombineering, gap-repair, subcloning plus insertion, transgene, knockout, mouse
Generation of Plasmid Vectors Expressing FLAG-tagged Proteins Under the Regulation of Human Elongation Factor-1α Promoter Using Gibson Assembly
Institutions: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Gibson assembly (GA) cloning offers a rapid, reliable, and flexible alternative to conventional DNA cloning methods. We used GA to create customized plasmids for expression of exogenous genes in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). Expression of exogenous genes under the control of the SV40 or human cytomegalovirus promoters diminishes quickly after transfection into mESCs. A remedy for this diminished expression is to use the human elongation factor-1 alpha (hEF1α) promoter to drive gene expression. Plasmid vectors containing hEF1α are not as widely available as SV40- or CMV-containing plasmids, especially those also containing N-terminal 3xFLAG-tags. The protocol described here is a rapid method to create plasmids expressing FLAG-tagged CstF-64 and CstF-64 mutant under the expressional regulation of the hEF1α promoter. GA uses a blend of DNA exonuclease, DNA polymerase and DNA ligase to make cloning of overlapping ends of DNA fragments possible. Based on the template DNAs we had available, we designed our constructs to be assembled into a single sequence. Our design used four DNA fragments: pcDNA 3.1 vector backbone, hEF1α promoter part 1, hEF1α promoter part 2 (which contained 3xFLAG-tag purchased as a double-stranded synthetic DNA fragment), and either CstF-64 or specific CstF-64 mutant. The sequences of these fragments were uploaded to a primer generation tool to design appropriate PCR primers for generating the DNA fragments. After PCR, DNA fragments were mixed with the vector containing the selective marker and the GA cloning reaction was assembled. Plasmids from individual transformed bacterial colonies were isolated. Initial screen of the plasmids was done by restriction digestion, followed by sequencing. In conclusion, GA allowed us to create customized plasmids for gene expression in 5 days, including construct screens and verification.
Molecular Biology, Issue 96, human EF1α, promoter, SV40 promoter, CMV promoter, Gibson assembly, embryonic stem cells, protein expression, FLAG-tag, synthetic biology
Modeling The Lifecycle Of Ebola Virus Under Biosafety Level 2 Conditions With Virus-like Particles Containing Tetracistronic Minigenomes
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Ebola viruses cause severe hemorrhagic fevers in humans and non-human primates, with case fatality rates as high as 90%. There are no approved vaccines or specific treatments for the disease caused by these viruses, and work with infectious Ebola viruses is restricted to biosafety level 4 laboratories, significantly limiting the research on these viruses. Lifecycle modeling systems model the virus lifecycle under biosafety level 2 conditions; however, until recently such systems have been limited to either individual aspects of the virus lifecycle, or a single infectious cycle. Tetracistronic minigenomes, which consist of Ebola virus non-coding regions, a reporter gene, and three Ebola virus genes involved in morphogenesis, budding, and entry (VP40, GP1,2
, and VP24), can be used to produce replication and transcription-competent virus-like particles (trVLPs) containing these minigenomes. These trVLPs can continuously infect cells expressing the Ebola virus proteins responsible for genome replication and transcription, allowing us to safely model multiple infectious cycles under biosafety level 2 conditions. Importantly, the viral components of this systems are solely derived from Ebola virus and not from other viruses (as is, for example, the case in systems using pseudotyped viruses), and VP40, GP1,2
and VP24 are not overexpressed in this system, making it ideally suited for studying morphogenesis, budding and entry, although other aspects of the virus lifecycle such as genome replication and transcription can also be modeled with this system. Therefore, the tetracistronic trVLP assay represents the most comprehensive lifecycle modeling system available for Ebola viruses, and has tremendous potential for use in investigating the biology of Ebola viruses in future. Here, we provide detailed information on the use of this system, as well as on expected results.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 91, hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral, Mononegavirales Infections, Ebola virus, filovirus, lifecycle modeling system, minigenome, reverse genetics, virus-like particles, replication, transcription, budding, morphogenesis, entry
Single-plant, Sterile Microcosms for Nodulation and Growth of the Legume Plant Medicago truncatula with the Rhizobial Symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti
Institutions: Florida State University.
Rhizobial bacteria form symbiotic, nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots of compatible host legume plants. One of the most well-developed model systems for studying these interactions is the plant Medicago truncatula
cv. Jemalong A17 and the rhizobial bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti
1021. Repeated imaging of plant roots and scoring of symbiotic phenotypes requires methods that are non-destructive to either plants or bacteria. The symbiotic phenotypes of some plant and bacterial mutants become apparent after relatively short periods of growth, and do not require long-term observation of the host/symbiont interaction. However, subtle differences in symbiotic efficiency and nodule senescence phenotypes that are not apparent in the early stages of the nodulation process require relatively long growth periods before they can be scored. Several methods have been developed for long-term growth and observation of this host/symbiont pair. However, many of these methods require repeated watering, which increases the possibility of contamination by other microbes. Other methods require a relatively large space for growth of large numbers of plants. The method described here, symbiotic growth of M. truncatula/S. meliloti
in sterile, single-plant microcosms, has several advantages. Plants in these microcosms have sufficient moisture and nutrients to ensure that watering is not required for up to 9 weeks, preventing cross-contamination during watering. This allows phenotypes to be quantified that might be missed in short-term growth systems, such as subtle delays in nodule development and early nodule senescence. Also, the roots and nodules in the microcosm are easily viewed through the plate lid, so up-rooting of the plants for observation is not required.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 80, Plant Roots, Medicago, Gram-Negative Bacteria, Nitrogen, Microbiological Techniques, Bacterial Processes, Symbiosis, botany, microbiology, Medicago truncatula, Sinorhizobium meliloti, nodule, nitrogen fixation, legume, rhizobia, bacteria
Protocols for Implementing an Escherichia coli Based TX-TL Cell-Free Expression System for Synthetic Biology
Institutions: California Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota.
Ideal cell-free expression systems can theoretically emulate an in vivo
cellular environment in a controlled in vitro
This is useful for expressing proteins and genetic circuits in a controlled manner as well as for providing a prototyping environment for synthetic biology.2,3
To achieve the latter goal, cell-free expression systems that preserve endogenous Escherichia coli transcription-translation mechanisms are able to more accurately reflect in vivo
cellular dynamics than those based on T7 RNA polymerase transcription. We describe the preparation and execution of an efficient endogenous E. coli
based transcription-translation (TX-TL) cell-free expression system that can produce equivalent amounts of protein as T7-based systems at a 98% cost reduction to similar commercial systems.4,5
The preparation of buffers and crude cell extract are described, as well as the execution of a three tube TX-TL reaction. The entire protocol takes five days to prepare and yields enough material for up to 3000 single reactions in one preparation. Once prepared, each reaction takes under 8 hr from setup to data collection and analysis. Mechanisms of regulation and transcription exogenous to E. coli
, such as lac/tet repressors and T7 RNA polymerase, can be supplemented.6
Endogenous properties, such as mRNA and DNA degradation rates, can also be adjusted.7
The TX-TL cell-free expression system has been demonstrated for large-scale circuit assembly, exploring biological phenomena, and expression of proteins under both T7- and endogenous promoters.6,8
Accompanying mathematical models are available.9,10
The resulting system has unique applications in synthetic biology as a prototyping environment, or "TX-TL biomolecular breadboard."
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Bioengineering, Synthetic Biology, Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic, Molecular Biology, control theory, TX-TL, cell-free expression, in vitro, transcription-translation, cell-free protein synthesis, synthetic biology, systems biology, Escherichia coli cell extract, biological circuits, biomolecular breadboard
Large-scale Gene Knockdown in C. elegans Using dsRNA Feeding Libraries to Generate Robust Loss-of-function Phenotypes
Institutions: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
RNA interference by feeding worms bacteria expressing dsRNAs has been a useful tool to assess gene function in C. elegans
. While this strategy works well when a small number of genes are targeted for knockdown, large scale feeding screens show variable knockdown efficiencies, which limits their utility. We have deconstructed previously published RNAi knockdown protocols and found that the primary source of the reduced knockdown can be attributed to the loss of dsRNA-encoding plasmids from the bacteria fed to the animals. Based on these observations, we have developed a dsRNA feeding protocol that greatly reduces or eliminates plasmid loss to achieve efficient, high throughput knockdown. We demonstrate that this protocol will produce robust, reproducible knock down of C. elegans
genes in multiple tissue types, including neurons, and will permit efficient knockdown in large scale screens. This protocol uses a commercially available dsRNA feeding library and describes all steps needed to duplicate the library and perform dsRNA screens. The protocol does not require the use of any sophisticated equipment, and can therefore be performed by any C. elegans
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), Gene Knockdown Techniques, C. elegans, dsRNA interference, gene knockdown, large scale feeding screen
Site-specific Bacterial Chromosome Engineering: ΦC31 Integrase Mediated Cassette Exchange (IMCE)
Institutions: University of Waterloo.
The bacterial chromosome may be used to stably maintain foreign DNA in the mega-base range1
. Integration into the chromosome circumvents issues such as plasmid replication, plasmid stability, plasmid incompatibility, and plasmid copy number variance. This method uses the site-specific integrase from the Streptomyces
phage (Φ) C312,3
. The ΦC31 integrase catalyzes a direct recombination between two specific DNA sites: attB
(34 and 39 bp, respectively)4
. This recombination is stable and does not revert5
. A "landing pad" (LP) sequence consisting of a spectinomycin- resistance gene, aadA
), and the E. coli
ß-glucuronidase gene (uidA
) flanked by attP
sites has been integrated into the chromosomes of Sinorhizobium meliloti, Ochrobactrum anthropi,
and Agrobacterium tumefaciens
in an intergenic region, the ampC
locus, and the tetA
locus, respectively. S. meliloti
is used in this protocol. Mobilizable donor vectors containing attB
sites flanking a stuffer red fluorescent protein (rfp)
gene and an antibiotic resistance gene have also been constructed. In this example the gentamicin resistant plasmid pJH110 is used. The rfp
may be replaced with a desired construct using Sph
I and Pst
I. Alternatively a synthetic construct flanked by attB
sites may be sub-cloned into a mobilizable vector such as pK19mob7
. The expression of the ΦC31 integrase gene (cloned from pHS628
) is driven by the lac
promoter, on a mobilizable broad host range plasmid pRK78139
A tetraparental mating protocol is used to transfer the donor cassette into the LP strain thereby replacing the markers in the LP sequence with the donor cassette. These cells are trans-integrants. Trans-integrants are formed with a typical efficiency of 0.5%. Trans-integrants are typically found within the first 500-1,000 colonies screened by antibiotic sensitivity or blue-white screening using 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-beta-D-glucuronic acid (X-gluc). This protocol contains the mating and selection procedures for creating and isolating trans-integrants.
Bioengineering, Issue 61, ΦC31 Integrase, Rhizobiales, Chromosome Engineering, bacterial genetics
TransFLP — A Method to Genetically Modify Vibrio cholerae Based on Natural Transformation and FLP-recombination
Institutions: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Several methods are available to manipulate bacterial chromosomes1-3
. Most of these protocols rely on the insertion of conditionally replicative plasmids (e.g.
harboring pir-dependent or temperature-sensitive replicons1,2
). These plasmids are integrated into bacterial chromosomes based on homology-mediated recombination. Such insertional mutants are often directly used in experimental settings. Alternatively, selection for plasmid excision followed by its loss can be performed, which for Gram-negative bacteria often relies on the counter-selectable levan sucrase enzyme encoded by the sacB
. The excision can either restore the pre-insertion genotype or result in an exchange between the chromosome and the plasmid-encoded copy of the modified gene. A disadvantage of this technique is that it is time-consuming. The plasmid has to be cloned first; it requires horizontal transfer into V. cholerae
(most notably by mating with an E. coli
donor strain) or artificial transformation of the latter; and the excision of the plasmid is random and can either restore the initial genotype or create the desired modification if no positive selection is exerted. Here, we present a method for rapid manipulation of the V. cholerae
). This TransFLP method is based on the recently discovered chitin-mediated induction of natural competence in this organism6
and other representative of the genus Vibrio
such as V. fischeri7
. Natural competence allows the uptake of free DNA including PCR-generated DNA fragments. Once taken up, the DNA recombines with the chromosome given the presence of a minimum of 250-500 bp of flanking homologous region8
. Including a selection marker in-between these flanking regions allows easy detection of frequently occurring transformants.
This method can be used for different genetic manipulations of V. cholerae
and potentially also other naturally competent bacteria. We provide three novel examples on what can be accomplished by this method in addition to our previously published study on single gene deletions and the addition of affinity-tag sequences5
. Several optimization steps concerning the initial protocol of chitin-induced natural transformation6
are incorporated in this TransFLP protocol. These include among others the replacement of crab shell fragments by commercially available chitin flakes8
, the donation of PCR-derived DNA as transforming material9
, and the addition of FLP-recombination target sites (FRT)5
. FRT sites allow site-directed excision of the selection marker mediated by the Flp recombinase10
Immunology, Issue 68, Microbiology, Genetics, natural transformation, DNA uptake, FLP recombination, chitin, Vibrio cholerae
Mapping Bacterial Functional Networks and Pathways in Escherichia Coli using Synthetic Genetic Arrays
Institutions: University of Toronto, University of Toronto, University of Regina.
Phenotypes are determined by a complex series of physical (e.g.
protein-protein) and functional (e.g.
gene-gene or genetic) interactions (GI)1
. While physical interactions can indicate which bacterial proteins are associated as complexes, they do not necessarily reveal pathway-level functional relationships1. GI screens, in which the growth of double mutants bearing two deleted or inactivated genes is measured and compared to the corresponding single mutants, can illuminate epistatic dependencies between loci and hence provide a means to query and discover novel functional relationships2
. Large-scale GI maps have been reported for eukaryotic organisms like yeast3-7
, but GI information remains sparse for prokaryotes8
, which hinders the functional annotation of bacterial genomes. To this end, we and others have developed high-throughput quantitative bacterial GI screening methods9, 10
Here, we present the key steps required to perform quantitative E. coli
Synthetic Genetic Array (eSGA) screening procedure on a genome-scale9
, using natural bacterial conjugation and homologous recombination to systemically generate and measure the fitness of large numbers of double mutants in a colony array format.
Briefly, a robot is used to transfer, through conjugation, chloramphenicol (Cm) - marked mutant alleles from engineered Hfr (High frequency of recombination) 'donor strains' into an ordered array of kanamycin (Kan) - marked F- recipient strains. Typically, we use loss-of-function single mutants bearing non-essential gene deletions (e.g.
the 'Keio' collection11
) and essential gene hypomorphic mutations (i.e.
alleles conferring reduced protein expression, stability, or activity9, 12, 13
) to query the functional associations of non-essential and essential genes, respectively. After conjugation and ensuing genetic exchange mediated by homologous recombination, the resulting double mutants are selected on solid medium containing both antibiotics. After outgrowth, the plates are digitally imaged and colony sizes are quantitatively scored using an in-house automated image processing system14
. GIs are revealed when the growth rate of a double mutant is either significantly better or worse than expected9
. Aggravating (or negative) GIs often result between loss-of-function mutations in pairs of genes from compensatory pathways that impinge on the same essential process2
. Here, the loss of a single gene is buffered, such that either single mutant is viable. However, the loss of both pathways is deleterious and results in synthetic lethality or sickness (i.e.
slow growth). Conversely, alleviating (or positive) interactions can occur between genes in the same pathway or protein complex2
as the deletion of either gene alone is often sufficient to perturb the normal function of the pathway or complex such that additional perturbations do not reduce activity, and hence growth, further. Overall, systematically identifying and analyzing GI networks can provide unbiased, global maps of the functional relationships between large numbers of genes, from which pathway-level information missed by other approaches can be inferred9
Genetics, Issue 69, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Aggravating, alleviating, conjugation, double mutant, Escherichia coli, genetic interaction, Gram-negative bacteria, homologous recombination, network, synthetic lethality or sickness, suppression
Engineering Adherent Bacteria by Creating a Single Synthetic Curli Operon
Institutions: Université de Lyon, Université de Lyon, Université de Lyon, Université de Lyon.
The method described here consists in redesigning E. coli
adherence properties by assembling the minimum number of curli genes under the control of a strong and metal-overinducible promoter, and in visualizing and quantifying the resulting gain of bacterial adherence. This method applies appropriate engineering principles of abstraction and standardization of synthetic biology, and results in the BBa_K540000 Biobrick (Best new Biobrick device, engineered, iGEM 2011).
The first step consists in the design of the synthetic operon devoted to curli overproduction in response to metal, and therefore in increasing the adherence abilities of the wild type strain. The original curli operon was modified in silico
in order to optimize transcriptional and translational signals and escape the "natural" regulation of curli. This approach allowed to test with success our current understanding of curli production. Moreover, simplifying the curli regulation by switching the endogenous complex promoter (more than 10 transcriptional regulators identified) to a simple metal-regulated promoter makes adherence much easier to control.
The second step includes qualitative and quantitative assessment of adherence abilities by implementation of simple methods. These methods are applicable to a large range of adherent bacteria regardless of biological structures involved in biofilm formation. Adherence test in 24-well polystyrene plates provides a quick preliminary visualization of the bacterial biofilm after crystal violet staining. This qualitative test can be sharpened by the quantification of the percentage of adherence. Such a method is very simple but more accurate than only crystal violet staining as described previously 1
with both a good repeatability and reproducibility. Visualization of GFP-tagged bacteria on glass slides by fluorescence or laser confocal microscopy allows to strengthen the results obtained with the 24-well plate test by direct observation of the phenomenon.
Bioengineering, Issue 69, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, curli, cobalt, biofilm, Escherichia coli, synthetic operon, synthetic biology, adherence assay, biofilm quantification, microscopy
A Toolkit to Enable Hydrocarbon Conversion in Aqueous Environments
Institutions: Delft University of Technology, Delft University of Technology.
This work puts forward a toolkit that enables the conversion of alkanes by Escherichia coli
and presents a proof of principle of its applicability. The toolkit consists of multiple standard interchangeable parts (BioBricks)9
addressing the conversion of alkanes, regulation of gene expression and survival in toxic hydrocarbon-rich environments.
A three-step pathway for alkane degradation was implemented in E. coli
to enable the conversion of medium- and long-chain alkanes to their respective alkanols, alkanals and ultimately alkanoic-acids. The latter were metabolized via the native β-oxidation pathway. To facilitate the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes (C5-C13) and cycloalkanes (C5-C8), four genes (alkB2
) of the alkane hydroxylase system from Gordonia
were transformed into E. coli
. For the conversion of long-chain alkanes (C15-C36), theladA
gene from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans
was implemented. For the required further steps of the degradation process, ADH
and ALDH (
originating from G. thermodenitrificans
) were introduced10,11
. The activity was measured by resting cell assays. For each oxidative step, enzyme activity was observed.
To optimize the process efficiency, the expression was only induced under low glucose conditions: a substrate-regulated promoter, pCaiF, was used. pCaiF is present in E. coli
K12 and regulates the expression of the genes involved in the degradation of non-glucose carbon sources.
The last part of the toolkit - targeting survival - was implemented using solvent tolerance genes, PhPFDα and β, both from Pyrococcus horikoshii
OT3. Organic solvents can induce cell stress and decreased survivability by negatively affecting protein folding. As chaperones, PhPFDα and β improve the protein folding process e.g.
under the presence of alkanes. The expression of these genes led to an improved hydrocarbon tolerance shown by an increased growth rate (up to 50%) in the presences of 10% n
-hexane in the culture medium were observed.
Summarizing, the results indicate that the toolkit enables E. coli
to convert and tolerate hydrocarbons in aqueous environments. As such, it represents an initial step towards a sustainable solution for oil-remediation using a synthetic biology approach.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Oil remediation, alkane metabolism, alkane hydroxylase system, resting cell assay, prefoldin, Escherichia coli, synthetic biology, homologous interaction mapping, mathematical model, BioBrick, iGEM
Substrate Generation for Endonucleases of CRISPR/Cas Systems
Institutions: Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology.
The interaction of viruses and their prokaryotic hosts shaped the evolution of bacterial and archaeal life. Prokaryotes developed several strategies to evade viral attacks that include restriction modification, abortive infection and CRISPR/Cas systems. These adaptive immune systems found in many Bacteria and most Archaea consist of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) sequences and a number of CRISPR associated (Cas) genes (Fig. 1) 1-3
. Different sets of Cas proteins and repeats define at least three major divergent types of CRISPR/Cas systems 4
. The universal proteins Cas1 and Cas2 are proposed to be involved in the uptake of viral DNA that will generate a new spacer element between two repeats at the 5' terminus of an extending CRISPR cluster 5
. The entire cluster is transcribed into a precursor-crRNA containing all spacer and repeat sequences and is subsequently processed by an enzyme of the diverse Cas6 family into smaller crRNAs 6-8
. These crRNAs consist of the spacer sequence flanked by a 5' terminal (8 nucleotides) and a 3' terminal tag derived from the repeat sequence 9
. A repeated infection of the virus can now be blocked as the new crRNA will be directed by a Cas protein complex (Cascade) to the viral DNA and identify it as such via base complementarity10
. Finally, for CRISPR/Cas type 1 systems, the nuclease Cas3 will destroy the detected invader DNA 11,12
These processes define CRISPR/Cas as an adaptive immune system of prokaryotes and opened a fascinating research field for the study of the involved Cas proteins. The function of many Cas proteins is still elusive and the causes for the apparent diversity of the CRISPR/Cas systems remain to be illuminated. Potential activities of most Cas proteins were predicted via detailed computational analyses. A major fraction of Cas proteins are either shown or proposed to function as endonucleases 4
Here, we present methods to generate crRNAs and precursor-cRNAs for the study of Cas endoribonucleases. Different endonuclease assays require either short repeat sequences that can directly be synthesized as RNA oligonucleotides or longer crRNA and pre-crRNA sequences that are generated via in vitro
T7 RNA polymerase run-off transcription. This methodology allows the incorporation of radioactive nucleotides for the generation of internally labeled endonuclease substrates and the creation of synthetic or mutant crRNAs. Cas6 endonuclease activity is utilized to mature pre-crRNAs into crRNAs with 5'-hydroxyl and a 2',3'-cyclic phosphate termini.
Molecular biology, Issue 67, CRISPR/Cas, endonuclease, in vitro transcription, crRNA, Cas6
Monitoring Plasmid Replication in Live Mammalian Cells over Multiple Generations by Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Few naturally-occurring plasmids are maintained in mammalian cells. Among these are genomes of gamma-herpesviruses, including Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), which cause multiple human malignancies 1-3
. These two genomes are replicated in a licensed manner, each using a single viral protein and cellular replication machinery, and are passed to daughter cells during cell division despite their lacking traditional centromeres 4-8
Much work has been done to characterize the replications of these plasmid genomes using methods such as Southern blotting and fluorescence in situ
hybridization (FISH). These methods are limited, though. Quantitative PCR and Southern blots provide information about the average number of plasmids per cell in a population of cells. FISH is a single-cell assay that reveals both the average number and the distribution of plasmids per cell in the population of cells but is static, allowing no information about the parent or progeny of the examined cell.
Here, we describe a method for visualizing plasmids in live cells. This method is based on the binding of a fluorescently tagged lactose repressor protein to multiple sites in the plasmid of interest 9
. The DNA of interest is engineered to include approximately 250 tandem repeats of the lactose operator (LacO) sequence. LacO is specifically bound by the lactose repressor protein (LacI), which can be fused to a fluorescent protein. The fusion protein can either be expressed from the engineered plasmid or introduced by a retroviral vector. In this way, the DNA molecules are fluorescently tagged and therefore become visible via fluorescence microscopy. The fusion protein is blocked from binding the plasmid DNA by culturing cells in the presence of IPTG until the plasmids are ready to be viewed.
This system allows the plasmids to be monitored in living cells through several generations, revealing properties of their synthesis and partitioning to daughter cells. Ideal cells are adherent, easily transfected, and have large nuclei. This technique has been used to determine that 84% of EBV-derived plasmids are synthesized each generation and 88% of the newly synthesized plasmids partition faithfully to daughter cells in HeLa cells. Pairs of these EBV plasmids were seen to be tethered to or associated with sister chromatids after their synthesis in S-phase until they were seen to separate as the sister chromatids separated in Anaphase10
. The method is currently being used to study replication of KSHV genomes in HeLa cells and SLK cells. HeLa cells are immortalized human epithelial cells, and SLK cells are immortalized human endothelial cells. Though SLK cells were originally derived from a KSHV lesion, neither the HeLa nor SLK cell line naturally harbors KSHV genomes11
. In addition to studying viral replication, this visualization technique can be used to investigate the effects of the addition, removal, or mutation of various DNA sequence elements on synthesis, localization, and partitioning of other recombinant plasmid DNAs.
Genetics, Issue 70, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Genomics, DNA synthesis, DNA partitioning, plasmids, lac operator, lac repressor, mammalian cells, fluorescence microscopy
High-throughput Functional Screening using a Homemade Dual-glow Luciferase Assay
Institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital.
We present a rapid and inexpensive high-throughput screening protocol to identify transcriptional regulators of alpha-synuclein, a gene associated with Parkinson's disease. 293T cells are transiently transfected with plasmids from an arrayed ORF expression library, together with luciferase reporter plasmids, in a one-gene-per-well microplate format. Firefly luciferase activity is assayed after 48 hr to determine the effects of each library gene upon alpha-synuclein transcription, normalized to expression from an internal control construct (a hCMV promoter directing Renilla
luciferase). This protocol is facilitated by a bench-top robot enclosed in a biosafety cabinet, which performs aseptic liquid handling in 96-well format. Our automated transfection protocol is readily adaptable to high-throughput lentiviral library production or other functional screening protocols requiring triple-transfections of large numbers of unique library plasmids in conjunction with a common set of helper plasmids. We also present an inexpensive and validated alternative to commercially-available, dual luciferase reagents which employs PTC124, EDTA, and pyrophosphate to suppress firefly luciferase activity prior to measurement of Renilla
luciferase. Using these methods, we screened 7,670 human genes and identified 68 regulators of alpha-synuclein. This protocol is easily modifiable to target other genes of interest.
Cellular Biology, Issue 88, Luciferases, Gene Transfer Techniques, Transfection, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Transfections, Robotics
Forward Genetics Screens Using Macrophages to Identify Toxoplasma gondii Genes Important for Resistance to IFN-γ-Dependent Cell Autonomous Immunity
Institutions: New York Medical College.
the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, is an obligate intracellular protozoan pathogen. The parasite invades and replicates within virtually any warm blooded vertebrate cell type. During parasite invasion of a host cell, the parasite creates a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) that originates from the host cell membrane independent of phagocytosis within which the parasite replicates. While IFN-dependent-innate and cell mediated immunity is important for eventual control of infection, innate immune cells, including neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells, can also serve as vehicles for systemic dissemination of the parasite early in infection. An approach is described that utilizes the host innate immune response, in this case macrophages, in a forward genetic screen to identify parasite mutants with a fitness defect in infected macrophages following activation but normal invasion and replication in naïve macrophages. Thus, the screen isolates parasite mutants that have a specific defect in their ability to resist the effects of macrophage activation. The paper describes two broad phenotypes of mutant parasites following activation of infected macrophages: parasite stasis versus parasite degradation, often in amorphous vacuoles. The parasite mutants are then analyzed to identify the responsible parasite genes specifically important for resistance to induced mediators of cell autonomous immunity. The paper presents a general approach for the forward genetics screen that, in theory, can be modified to target parasite genes important for resistance to specific antimicrobial mediators. It also describes an approach to evaluate the specific macrophage antimicrobial mediators to which the parasite mutant is susceptible. Activation of infected macrophages can also promote parasite differentiation from the tachyzoite to bradyzoite stage that maintains chronic infection. Therefore, methodology is presented to evaluate the importance of the identified parasite gene to establishment of chronic infection.
Immunology, Issue 97, Toxoplasma, macrophages, innate immunity, intracellular pathogen, immune evasion, infectious disease, forward genetics, parasite