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Microb Biotechnol. 2008 May;1(3):226-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7915.2008.00023.x.

Induction of natural competence in Bacillus cereus ATCC14579.

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Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, Department of Genetics, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751NN Haren, the Netherlands.


Natural competence is the ability of certain microbes to take up exogenous DNA from the environment and integrate it in their genome. Competence development has been described for a variety of bacteria, but has so far not been shown to occur in Bacillus cereus. However, orthologues of most proteins involved in natural DNA uptake in Bacillus subtilis could be identified in B. cereus. Here, we report that B. cereus ATCC14579 can become naturally competent. When expressing the B. subtilis ComK protein using an IPTG-inducible system in B. cereus ATCC14579, cells grown in minimal medium displayed natural competence, as either genomic DNA or plasmid DNA was shown to be taken up by the cells and integrated into the genome or stably maintained respectively. This work proves that a sufficient structural system for DNA uptake exists in B. cereus. Bacillus cereus can be employed as a model system to investigate the mechanism of DNA uptake in related bacteria such as Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus thuringiensis. Moreover, natural competence provides an important tool for biotechnology, as it will allow more efficient transformation of B. cereus and related organisms, e.g. to knockout genes in a high-throughput way.

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