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J Bacteriol. 1990 Nov;172(11):6557-67.

Transposon vectors containing non-antibiotic resistance selection markers for cloning and stable chromosomal insertion of foreign genes in gram-negative bacteria.

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GBF-National Research Centre for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Federal Republic of Germany.


A simple procedure for cloning and stable insertion of foreign genes into the chromosomes of gram-negative eubacteria was developed by combining in two sets of plasmids (i) the transposition features of Tn10 and Tn5; (ii) the resistances to the herbicide bialaphos, to mercuric salts and organomercurial compounds, and to arsenite, and (iii) the suicide delivery properties of the R6K-based plasmid pGP704. The resulting constructions contained unique NotI or SfiI sites internal to either the Tn10 or the Tn5 inverted repeats. These sites were readily used for cloning DNA fragments with the help of two additional specialized cloning plasmids, pUC18Not and pUC18Sfi. The newly derived constructions could be maintained only in donor host strains that produce the R6K-specified pi protein, which is an essential replication protein for R6K and plasmids derived therefrom. Donor plasmids containing hybrid transposons were transformed into a specialized lambda pir lysogenic Escherichia coli strain with a chromosomally integrated RP4 that provided broad-host-range conjugal transfer functions. Delivery of the donor plasmids into selected host bacteria was accomplished through mating with the target strain. Transposition of the hybrid transposon from the delivered suicide plasmid to a replicon in the target cell was mediated by the cognate transposase encoded on the plasmid at a site external to the transposon. Since the transposase function was not maintained in target cells, such cells were not immune to further transposition rounds. Multiple insertions in the same strain are therefore only limited by the availability of distinct selection markers. The utility of the system was demonstrated with a kanamycin resistance gene as a model foreign insert into Pseudomonas putida and a melanin gene from Streptomyces antibioticus into Klebsiella pneumoniae. Because of the modular nature of the functional parts of the cloning vectors, they can be easily modified and further selection markers can be incorporated. The cloning system described here will be particularly useful for the construction of hybrid bacteria that stably maintain inserted genes, perhaps in competitive situations (e.g., in open systems and natural environments), and that do not carry antibiotic resistance markers characteristic of most available cloning vectors (as is currently required of live bacterial vaccines).

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