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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 4;6(4):e18083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018083.

Green fluorescent protein labeling of Listeria, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 for safety-related studies.

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Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, National Institute for Microbial Forensics and Food and Agricultural Biosecurity, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, United States of America.


Many food safety-related studies require tracking of introduced foodborne pathogens to monitor their fate in complex environments. The green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene (gfp) provides an easily detectable phenotype so has been used to label many microorganisms for ecological studies. The objectives of this study were to label major foodborne pathogens and related bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes, Listeria innocua, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains, with GFP and characterize the labeled strains for stability of the GFP plasmid and the plasmid's effect on bacterial growth. GFP plasmids were introduced into these strains by a CaCl(2) procedure, conjugation or electroporation. Stability of the label was determined through sequential propagation of labeled strains in the absence of selective pressure, and rates of plasmid-loss were calculated. Stability of the GFP plasmid varied among the labeled species and strains, with the most stable GFP label observed in E. coli O157:H7. When grown in nonselective media for two consecutive subcultures (ca. 20 generations), the rates of plasmid loss among labeled E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria strains ranged from 0%-30%, 15.8%-99.9% and 8.1%-93.4%, respectively. Complete loss (>99.99%) of the plasmid occurred in some labeled strains after five consecutive subcultures in the absence of selective pressure, whereas it remained stable in others. The GFP plasmid had an insignificant effect on growth of most labeled strains. E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria strains can be effectively labeled with the GFP plasmid which can be stable in some isolates for many generations without adversely affecting growth rates.

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