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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 May;73(10):3265-71. Epub 2007 Mar 2.

Development of a genetic system for the chemolithoautotrophic bacterium Thiobacillus denitrificans.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, P.O. Box 808, L-542, Livermore, CA 94551-0808, USA.


Thiobacillus denitrificans is a widespread, chemolithoautotrophic bacterium with an unusual and environmentally relevant metabolic repertoire, which includes its ability to couple denitrification to sulfur compound oxidation; to catalyze anaerobic, nitrate-dependent oxidation of Fe(II) and U(IV); and to oxidize mineral electron donors. Recent analysis of its genome sequence also revealed the presence of genes encoding two [NiFe]hydrogenases, whose role in metabolism is unclear, as the sequenced strain does not appear to be able to grow on hydrogen as a sole electron donor under denitrifying conditions. In this study, we report the development of a genetic system for T. denitrificans, with which insertion mutations can be introduced by homologous recombination and complemented in trans. The antibiotic sensitivity of T. denitrificans was characterized, and a procedure for transformation with foreign DNA by electroporation was established. Insertion mutations were generated by in vitro transposition, the mutated genes were amplified by the PCR, and the amplicons were introduced into T. denitrificans by electroporation. The IncP plasmid pRR10 was found to be a useful vector for complementation. The effectiveness of the genetic system was demonstrated with the hynL gene, which encodes the large subunit of a [NiFe]hydrogenase. Interruption of hynL in a hynL::kan mutant resulted in a 75% decrease in specific hydrogenase activity relative to the wild type, whereas complementation of the hynL mutation resulted in activity that was 50% greater than that of the wild type. The availability of a genetic system in T. denitrificans will facilitate our understanding of the genetics and biochemistry underlying its unusual metabolism.

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