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J Gen Appl Microbiol. 2019 Jun 5. doi: 10.2323/jgam.2018.11.005. [Epub ahead of print]

Optimization of RK2-based gene introduction system for Bacillus subtilis.

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Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and Technology, Shinshu University.
Institute for Advanced Bioscience, Keio University.
Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology.


The Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis plays important roles in both industrial applications and basic research. However, transformation of competent B. subtilis cells is more difficult to achieve compared with that of Escherichia coli. It has been reported that the conjugative broad host range plasmid RK2 can be transferred to various organisms, including B. subtilis. Nevertheless, the protocol for conjugation from E. coli to B. subtilis has not been properly established. Thus, we optimized interspecies conjugation from E. coli to B. subtilis using the RK2 system. We constructed mobilizable shuttle and integrative vectors pEB1 and pEB2, respectively. pEB1 was used to evaluate the effect of mating media, time, temperature, and genetic background of the recipient and donor strains. We found that conjugation was not significantly affected by the conjugation time or genetic background of the recipient and donor strains. Conjugation on agar was more efficient than that in a liquid medium. A low temperature (16°C and lower) drastically decreased conjugation efficiency. When using the optimized protocol for homologous recombination after conjugation, we could not obtain double crossover mutants, as only single crossover mutants were observed in the initial selection. We then established a two-step homologous recombination method whereby positive colonies were cultivated further, which finally allowed efficient yield of double crossover recombinants. The optimized conjugation method described here allowed facility and efficient gene introduction into B. subtilis from E. coli.


Bacillus subtilis; RK2; conjugation; optimization

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