A system for the targeted amplification of bacterial gene clusters multiplies antibiotic yield in Streptomyces coelicolor

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Murakami T, Burian J, Yanai K, Bibb MJ, Thompson CJ.

Gene clusters found in bacterial species classified as Streptomyces encode the majority of known antibiotics as well as many pharmaceutically active compounds. A site-specific recombination system similar to those that mediate plasmid conjugation was engineered to catalyze tandem amplification of one of these gene clusters in a heterologous Streptomyces species. Three genetic elements were known to be required for DNA amplification in S. kanamyceticus: the oriT-like recombination sites RsA and RsB, and ZouA, a site-specific relaxase similar to TraA proteins that catalyze plasmid transfer. We inserted RsA and RsB sequences into the S. coelicolor genome flanking a cluster of 22 genes (act) responsible for biosynthesis of the polyketide antibiotic actinorhodin. Recombination between RsA and RsB generated zouA-dependent DNA amplification resulting in 4-12 tandem copies of the act gene cluster averaging nine repeats per genome. This resulted in a 20-fold increase in actinorhodin production compared with the parental strain. To determine whether the recombination event required taxon-specific genetic effectors or generalized bacterial recombination (recA), it was also analyzed in the heterologous host Escherichia coli. zouA was expressed under the control of an inducible promoter in wild-type and recA mutant strains. A plasmid was constructed with recombination sites RsA and RsB bordering a drug resistance marker. Induction of zouA expression generated hybrid RsB/RsA sites, evidence of site-specific recombination that occurred independently of recA. ZouA-mediated DNA amplification promises to be a valuable tool for increasing the activities of commercially important biosynthetic, degradative, and photosynthetic pathways in a wide variety of organisms.

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