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Counterselection method based on conditional silencing of antitoxin genes in Escherichia coli.

Journal of bioscience and bioengineering (2015-04-29)
Miyuki Tsukuda, Nobutaka Nakashima, Kentaro Miyazaki
ABSTRACT

Counterselection is a genetic engineering technique to eliminate specific genetic fragments containing selectable marker genes. Although the technique is widely used in bacterial genome engineering and plasmid curing experiments, the repertoire of the markers usable in Escherichia coli is limited. Here we developed a novel counterselection method in E. coli based on antisense RNA (asRNA) technology directed against toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules. Under normal conditions, excess antitoxin neutralizes its cognate toxin and thus the module is stably maintained in the genome. We hypothesised that repression of an antitoxin gene would perturb cell growth due to the toxin being released. We designed asRNAs corresponding to all 19 type II antitoxins encoded in the E. coli genome. asRNAs were then conditionally expressed; repression of MqsA in the MqsR/MqsA module had the greatest inhibitory effect, followed by RnlB in the RnlA/RnlB module. The utility of asRNA(MqsA) as a counterselection marker was demonstrated by efficient plasmid curing and strain improvement experiments.

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