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Open Access Research

Computational design and characterization of a temperature-sensitive plasmid replicon for gram positive thermophiles

Daniel G Olson13 and Lee R Lynd123*

Author Affiliations

1 Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA

2 Department of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA

3 BioEnergy Science Center, Oak Ridge, TN, 38738, USA

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Journal of Biological Engineering 2012, 6:5  doi:10.1186/1754-1611-6-5

Published: 11 May 2012

Abstract

Background

Temperature-sensitive (Ts) plasmids are useful tools for genetic engineering, but there are currently none compatible with the gram positive, thermophilic, obligate anaerobe, Clostridium thermocellum. Traditional mutagenesis techniques yield Ts mutants at a low frequency, and therefore requires the development of high-throughput screening protocols, which are also not available for this organism. Recently there has been progress in the development of computer algorithms which can predict Ts mutations. Most plasmids currently used for genetic modification of C. thermocellum are based on the replicon of plasmid pNW33N, which replicates using the RepB replication protein. To address this problem, we set out to create a Ts plasmid by mutating the gene coding for the RepB replication protein using an algorithm designed by Varadarajan et al. (1996) for predicting Ts mutants based on the amino-acid sequence of the protein.

Results

A library of 34 mutant plasmids was designed, synthesized and screened, resulting in 6 mutants which exhibited a Ts phenotype. Of these 6, the one with the most temperature-sensitive phenotype (M166A) was compared with the original plasmid. It exhibited lower stability at 48°C and was completely unable to replicate at 55°C.

Conclusions

The plasmid described in this work could be useful in future efforts to genetically engineer C. thermocellum, and the method used to generate this plasmid may be useful for others trying to make Ts plasmids.

Keywords:
Temperature sensitive; Rolling circle; Plasmid; Clostridium thermocellum; Gram positive; Thermophile