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Simultaneous gene inactivation and promoter reporting in cyanobacteria

Chen, Kangming, Xu, Xinyi, Gu, Liping, Hildreth, Michael, Zhou, Ruanbao
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2015 v.99 no.4 pp. 1779-1793
Anabaena variabilis, biotechnology, gene expression, gene expression regulation, gene targeting, genes, microbiology, monitoring, mutants, nitrogen, phenotype, transcription (genetics), vegetative cells
Determining spatiotemporal gene expression and analyzing knockout mutant phenotypes have become powerful tools in elucidating the function of genes; however, genetic approaches for simultaneously inactivating a gene and monitoring its expression have not been reported in the literature. In this study, we designed a dual-functional gene knockout vector pZR606 that contains a multiple cloning site (MCS) for inserting the internal fragment of a target gene, with a gfp gene as its transcriptional marker located immediately downstream of the MCS. By using this gene knockout system, we inactivated ava_2679 from Anabaena variabilis ATCC 29413, as well as all2508, alr2887, alr3608, and all4388 from Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120. The ava_2679 knockout mutant fails to grow diazotrophically. Morphological analysis of ava_2679 knockout mutant after nitrogen step-down revealed defective junctions between heterocysts and adjacent vegetative cells, and the heterocyst was 1.53-fold longer compared to wild-type heterocysts. The alr2887, all4388, and alr3608 mutant colonies turned yellow and showed lack of protracted growth when deprived of fixed nitrogen, consistent with the previous reports that alr2887, all4388, and alr3608 are Fox genes. The all2508 encodes a GTP-binding elongation factor (EF4/LepA), and its knockout mutant exhibited reduced diazotrophic growth. The heterocyst development of all2508 knockout was significantly delayed, and only about 4.0 % of vegetative cells differentiated to heterocysts after nitrogen deprivation for 72 h, decreased 49.6 % compared to wild-type. Thus, we discovered that All2508 may regulate heterocyst development spatiotemporally. Concurrently, the GFP reporter revealed that all five target gene expressions were up-regulated in response to nitrogen deprivation. We demonstrated that the pZR606-based specific gene knockout approach worked effectively for the five selected genes, including four previously identified Fox genes or Fox gene homolog, and a previously unknown function of gene all2508. Thus, gene expression and phenotypic analysis of mutants can be achieved simultaneously by targeted gene inactivation using the pZR606-based system. This combined approach for targeted gene inactivation and its promoter reporting with GFP may be broadly applicable to the study of gene function in other prokaryotic organisms.