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PLoS Pathog. 2011 Sep;7(9):e1002258. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002258. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Development of a transformation system for Chlamydia trachomatis: restoration of glycogen biosynthesis by acquisition of a plasmid shuttle vector.

Author information

1
Molecular Microbiology Group, University of Southampton Medical School, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Chlamydia trachomatis remains one of the few major human pathogens for which there is no transformation system. C. trachomatis has a unique obligate intracellular developmental cycle. The extracellular infectious elementary body (EB) is an infectious, electron-dense structure that, following host cell infection, differentiates into a non-infectious replicative form known as a reticulate body (RB). Host cells infected by C. trachomatis that are treated with penicillin are not lysed because this antibiotic prevents the maturation of RBs into EBs. Instead the RBs fail to divide although DNA replication continues. We have exploited these observations to develop a transformation protocol based on expression of β-lactamase that utilizes rescue from the penicillin-induced phenotype. We constructed a vector which carries both the chlamydial endogenous plasmid and an E.coli plasmid origin of replication so that it can shuttle between these two bacterial recipients. The vector, when introduced into C. trachomatis L2 under selection conditions, cures the endogenous chlamydial plasmid. We have shown that foreign promoters operate in vivo in C. trachomatis and that active β-lactamase and chloramphenicol acetyl transferase are expressed. To demonstrate the technology we have isolated chlamydial transformants that express the green fluorescent protein (GFP). As proof of principle, we have shown that manipulation of chlamydial biochemistry is possible by transformation of a plasmid-free C. trachomatis recipient strain. The acquisition of the plasmid restores the ability of the plasmid-free C. trachomatis to synthesise and accumulate glycogen within inclusions. These findings pave the way for a comprehensive genetic study on chlamydial gene function that has hitherto not been possible. Application of this technology avoids the use of therapeutic antibiotics and therefore the procedures do not require high level containment and will allow the analysis of genome function by complementation.

PMID:
21966270
PMCID:
PMC3178582
DOI:
10.1371/journal.ppat.1002258
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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