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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Oct;69(10):6106-13.

Escherichia coli ghost production by expression of lysis gene E and Staphylococcal nuclease.

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Apovia AG, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany.


The production of bacterial ghosts from Escherichia coli is accomplished by the controlled expression of phage phiX174 lysis gene E and, in contrast to other gram-negative bacterial species, is accompanied by the rare detection of nonlysed, reproductive cells within the ghost preparation. To overcome this problem, the expression of a secondary killing gene was suggested to give rise to the complete genetic inactivation of the bacterial samples. The expression of staphylococcal nuclease A in E. coli resulted in intracellular accumulation of the protein and degradation of the host DNA into fragments shorter than 100 bp. Two expression systems for the nuclease are presented and were combined with the protein E-mediated lysis system. Under optimized conditions for the coexpression of gene E and the staphylococcal nuclease, the concentration of viable cells fell below the lower limit of detection, whereas the rates of ghost formation were not affected. With regard to the absence of reproductive cells from the ghost fractions, the reduction of viability could be determined as being at least 7 to 8 orders of magnitude. The lysis process was characterized by electrophoretic analysis and absolute quantification of the genetic material within the cells and the culture supernatant via real-time PCR. The ongoing degradation of the bacterial nucleic acids resulted in a continuous quantitative clearance of the genetic material associated with the lysing cells until the concentrations fell below the detection limits of either assay. No functional, released genetic units (genes) were detected within the supernatant during the lysis process, including nuclease expression.

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