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Biotechnol Bioeng. 1990 Mar 15;35(6):565-77.

Propagation of an amplifiable recombinant plasmid in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: flow cytometry studies and segregated modeling.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.


Efficient expression of a foreign protein product by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae requires a stable recombinant vector present at a high number of copies per cell. A conditional centromere yeast plasmid was constructed which can be amplified to high copy number by a process of unequal partitioning at cell division, followed by selection for increased copy number. However, in the absence of selection pressure for plasmid amplification, copy number rapidly drops from 25 plasmids/cell to 6 plasmids/cell in less than 10 generations of growth. Copy number subsequently decreases from 6 plasmids/cell to 2 plasmids/cell over a span of 50 generations. A combination of flow cytometric measurement of copy number distributions and segregated mathematical modeling were applied to test the predictions of a conceptual model of conditional centromere plasmid propagation. Measured distributions of plasmid content displayed a significant subpopulation of cells with a copy number of 4-6, even in a population whose mean copy number was 13.5. This type of copy number distribution was reproduced by a mathematical model which assumes that a maximum of 4-6 centromere plasmids per cell can be stably partitioned at cell division. The model also reproduces the observed biphasic kinetics of plasmid number instability. The agreement between simulation and experimental results provides support for the proposed model and demonstrates the utility of the flow cytometry/segregated modeling approach for the study of multicopy recombinant vector propagation.


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