Journal of biotechnology

Elimination of the cryptic plasmid in Leuconostoc citreum by CRISPR/Cas9 system.

PMID 28433723


Leuconostoc spp. are important lactic acid bacteria for the fermentation of foods. In particular, L. citreum strains isolated from various foods have been used as host strains for genetic and metabolic engineering studies. In order to develop a food-grade genetic engineering system, L. citreum CB2567 was isolated from Kimchi. However, the isolated bacterium contained a cryptic plasmid which was difficult to eliminate. As the existence of the plasmid might hinder strain engineering, we eliminated the plasmid using an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease CRISPR/Cas9 system. We demonstrated that a plasmid-free L. citreum CB2567 host strain could be efficiently constructed through a two-step procedure: 1) transformation of the "killer" plasmid expressing Cas9 endonuclease and a guide RNA (gRNA) targeting for a specific sequence in the cryptic plasmid, and 2) serial subculture without antibiotics for curing the killer plasmid. When the crude extract of L. citreum expressing Cas9 and the guide RNA was incubated with a PCR fragment containing the specific sequence recognized by the guide RNA, the PCR fragment was cleaved. Also, the cryptic plasmid pCB42 was successfully eliminated from the host strain after transforming the plasmid harboring Cas9 and the guide RNA. The Cas9 and gRNA expression plasmid used in this study can be applied for genome engineering purposes by additionally introducing an editing DNA template to repair the double strand DNA breakage caused by Cas9 in the genome of L. citreum. This study demonstrates the feasibility of developing CRISPR/Cas9-based genetic engineering tools to develop a safe host strain and construct food-grade lactic acid bacteria without residual antibiotic markers.