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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Sep 12; 92(19): 8975–8979.

Transfection and continuous expression of heterologous genes in the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica.


To provide tools for functional molecular genetics of the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica, we investigated the use of the prokaryotic neomycin phosphotransferase (NEO) gene as a selectable marker for the transfection of the parasite. An Escherichia coli-derived plasmid vector was constructed (pA5'A3'NEO) containing the NEO coding region flanked by untranslated 5' and 3' sequences of an Ent. histolytica actin gene. Preceding experiments had revealed that amoebae are highly sensitive to the neomycin analogue G418 and do not survive in the presence of as little as 2 micrograms/ml. Transfection of circular pA5'A3'NEO via electroporation resulted in Ent. histolytica trophozoites resistant to G418 up to 100 micrograms/ml. DNA and RNA analyses of resistant cells indicated that (i) the transfected DNA was not integrated into the amoeba genome but was segregated episomally, (ii) in the amoebae, the plasmid replicated autonomously, (iii) the copy number of the plasmid and the expression of NEO-specific RNA were proportional to the amount of G418 used for selection, and (iv) under continuous selection, the plasmid was propagated over an observation period of 6 months. Moreover, the plasmid could be recloned into E. coli and was found to be unrearranged. To investigate the use of pA5'A3'NEO to coexpress other genes in Ent. histolytica, a second marker, the prokaryotic chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene under control of an Ent. histolytica lectin gene promoter was introduced into the plasmid. Transfection of the amoebae with this construct also conferred G418 resistance and, in addition, allowed continuous expression of CAT activity in quantities corresponding to the amount of G418 used for selection. When selection was discontinued, transfected plasmids were lost as indicated by an exponential decline of CAT activity in trophozoite extracts.

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Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences


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