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Gene. 2009 Feb 1;430(1-2):123-31. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2008.10.011. Epub 2008 Oct 28.

An allelic exchange system for compliant genetic manipulation of the select agents Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Mail Stop 8333, PO Box 6511, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei are Gram-negative bacterial pathogens that cause melioidosis in humans and glanders in horses, respectively. Both bacteria are classified as category B select agents in the United States. Due to strict select-agent regulations, the number of antibiotic selection markers approved for use in these bacteria is greatly limited. Approved markers for B. pseudomallei include genes encoding resistance to kanamycin (Km), gentamicin (Gm), and zeocin (Zeo); however, wild type B. pseudomallei is intrinsically resistant to these antibiotics. Selection markers for B. mallei are limited to Km and Zeo resistance genes. Additionally, there are few well developed counter-selection markers for use in Burkholderia. The use of SacB as a counter-selection method has been of limited success due to the presence of endogenous sacBC genes in the genomes of B. pseudomallei and B. mallei. These impediments have greatly hampered the genetic manipulation of B. pseudomallei and B. mallei and currently few reliable tools for the genetic manipulation of Burkholderia exist. To expand the repertoire of genetic tools for use in Burkholderia, we developed the suicide plasmid pMo130, which allows for the compliant genetic manipulation of the select agents B. pseudomallei and B. mallei using allelic exchange. pMo130 harbors an aphA gene which allows for Km selection, the reporter gene xylE, which allows for reliable visual detection of Burkholderia transformants, and carries a modified sacB gene that allows for the resolution of co-integrants. We employed this system to generate multiple unmarked and in-frame mutants in B. pseudomallei, and one mutant in B. mallei. This vector significantly expands the number of available tools that are select-agent compliant for the genetic manipulation of B. pseudomallei and B. mallei.

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