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Benef Microbes. 2013 Jun 1;4(2):143-66. doi: 10.3920/BM2012.0031.

Mobilome and genetic modification of bifidobacteria.

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Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Alimentari e Microbiologiche, Sezione di Microbiologia Industriale, Università degli studi di Milano, Via Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy.


Until recently, proper development of molecular studies in Bifidobacterium species has been hampered by growth difficulties, because of their exigent nutritive requirements, oxygen sensitivity and lack of efficient genetic tools. These studies, however, are critical to uncover the cross-talk between bifidobacteria and their hosts' cells and to prove unequivocally the supposed beneficial effects provided through the endogenous bifidobacterial populations or after ingestion as probiotics. The genome sequencing projects of different bifidobacterial strains have provided a wealth of genetic data that will be of much help in deciphering the molecular basis of the physiological properties of bifidobacteria. To this end, the purposeful development of stable cloning and expression vectors based on robust replicons - either from temperate phages or resident plasmids - is still needed. This review addresses the current knowledge on the mobile genetic elements of bifidobacteria (prophages, plasmids and transposons) and summarises the different types of vectors already available, together with the transformation procedures for introducing DNA into the cells. It also covers recent molecular studies performed with such vectors and incipient results on the genetic modification of these organisms, establishing the basis that would allow the use of bifidobacteria for future biotechnological applications.

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