Generation of In-Frame Gene Deletion Mutants in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Testing for Virulence Attenuation in a Simple Mouse Model of Infection

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Microorganisms are genetically versatile and diverse and have become a major source of many commercial products and biopharmaceuticals. Though some of these products are naturally produced by the organisms, other products require genetic engineering of the organism to increase the yields of production. Avirulent strains of Escherichia coli have traditionally been the preferred bacterial species for producing biopharmaceuticals; however, some products are difficult for E. coli to produce. Thus, avirulent strains of other bacterial species could provide useful alternatives for production of some commercial products. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common and well-studied Gram-negative bacterium that could provide a suitable alternative to E. coli. However, P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen. Here, we detail a procedure that can be used to generate nonpathogenic strains of P. aeruginosa through sequential genomic deletions using the pEX100T-NotI plasmid. The main advantage of this method is to produce a marker-free strain. This method may be used to generate highly attenuated P. aeruginosa strains for the production of commercial products, or to design strains for other specific uses. We also describe a simple and reproducible mouse model of bacterial systemic infection via intraperitoneal injection of validated test strains to test the attenuation of the genetically engineered strain in comparison to the FDA-approved BL21 strain of E. coli.