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PLoS One. 2007 Aug 8;2(8):e724.

Using single loxP sites to enhance homologous recombination: ts mutants in Sec1 of Dictyostelium discoideum.

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Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom.



Dictyostelium discoideum amoebae are haploid and, as they share many features with animal cells, should be an ideal creature for studying basic processes such as cell locomotion. Isolation of mutants in this amoeba has largely been limited to non-essential genes: nsfA-the gene for NEM-sensitive factor-remains the only essential gene for which conditional (ts) mutants exist. These ts mutants were generated by gene replacement using a library of mutagenised nsfA containing a selectable marker: transformants were then screened for temperature sensitivity. The success of this approach depended on the high level of homologous recombination prevailing at this locus: approximately 95% of selected clones were homologous recombinants. This is unusually high for Dictyostelium: homologous recombination at other loci is usually much less, usually between 0-30%, making the isolation of ts mutants much more tedious.


In trying to make ts mutants in sec1A, homologous recombination was found to be only approximately 25%. A new approach, involving single loxP sites, was investigated. LoxP sites are 34 bp sequences recognised by Cre recombinase and between which this enzyme catalyses recombination. A Dictyostelium line containing a single loxP site adjacent to the 3' end of the sec1A gene was engineered. A sec1A replacement DNA also containing a single loxP site in a homologous position was then introduced into this cell line. In the presence of CRE recombinase, homologous recombination increased to approximately 80% at this locus, presumably largely driven by intermolecular recombination between the two single loxP sites.


A route to increase the rate of homologous recombination at a specific locus, sec1A, is described which enabled the isolation of 30 ts mutants in sec1A. One of these, sec1Ats1,has been studied and found to cease moving at the restrictive temperature. The approach described here may be valuable for enhancing homologous recombination at specified loci and thus for introducing mutations into specific genes in Dictyostelium and other creatures.

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