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Biomol Eng. 1999 Dec 31;16(1-4):135-40.

Streptavidin-based containment systems for genetically engineered microorganisms.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


The use of genetically modified microorganisms for environmental remediation continues to be debated. Conditional lethal systems with tightly regulated gene expression can be used to contain released microorganisms and ameliorate some of the concerns about horizontal gene transfer. We have described streptavidin-based suicide systems to address these concerns and evaluated their function in Pseudomonas putida containing the TOL plasmid for aromatic hydrocarbon metabolism. Tight regulation of expression of a truncated streptavidin gene was required to avoid premature production of the toxic protein. Streptavidin expression was induced by the absence of 3-methyl benzoate (hydrocarbon substrate) which resulted in the elimination of 99.9% of the bacterial culture within eight hours. Low mutant escape rates at 10(-7) per cell per generation were also realized.

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