A highly thermostable kanamycin resistance marker expands the tool kit for genetic manipulation of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii

Gina L. Lipscomb, Jonathan M. Conway, Sara E. Blumer-Schuette, Robert M. Kelly, Michael W.W. Adams

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Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, an anaerobic Gram-positive bacterium with an optimal growth temperature of 78°C, is the most thermophilic cellulose degrader known. It is of great biotechnological interest, as it efficiently deconstructs nonpretreated lignocellulosic plant biomass. Currently, its genetic manipulation relies on a mutant uracil auxotrophic background strain that contains a random deletion in the pyrF genome region. The pyrF gene serves as a genetic marker to select for uracil prototrophy, and it can also be counterselected for loss via resistance to the compound 5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA). To expand the C. bescii genetic tool kit, kanamycin resistance was developed as a selection for genetic manipulation. A codon-optimized version of the highly thermostable kanamycin resistance gene (named Cbhtk) allowed the use of kanamycin selection to obtain transformants of either replicating or integrating vector constructs in C. bescii. These strains showed resistance to kanamycin at concentrations >50 μg ml-1, whereas wild-type C. bescii was sensitive to kanamycin at 10 μg ml-1. In addition, placement of the Cbhtk marker between homologous recombination regions in an integrating vector allowed direct selection of a chromosomal mutation using both kanamycin and 5-FOA. Furthermore, the use of kanamycin selection enabled the targeted deletion of the pyrE gene in wild-type C. bescii, generating a uracil auxotrophic genetic background strain resistant to 5-FOA. The pyrE gene functioned as a counterselectable marker, like pyrF, and was used together with Cbhtk in the δpyrE background strain to delete genes encoding lactate dehydrogenase and the CbeI restriction enzyme. Importance: Caldicellulosiruptor bescii is a thermophilic anaerobic bacterium with an optimal growth temperature of 78°C, and it has the ability to efficiently deconstruct nonpretreated lignocellulosic plant biomass. It is, therefore, of biotechnological interest for genetic engineering applications geared toward biofuel production. The current genetic system used with C. bescii is based upon only a single selection strategy, and this uses the gene involved in a primary biosynthetic pathway. There are many advantages with an additional genetic selection using an antibiotic. This presents a challenge for thermophilic microorganisms, as only a limited number of antibiotics are stable above 50°C, and a thermostable version of the enzyme conferring antibiotic resistance must be obtained. In this work, we have developed a selection system for C. bescii using the antibiotic kanamycin and have shown that, in combination with the biosynthetic gene marker, it can be used to efficiently delete genes in this organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4421-4428
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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