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Abstract

In the past few decades, increased awareness of environmental pollution has led to the exploitation of microbial metabolic potential in the construction of several genetically engineered microorganisms (GEMs) for bioremediation purposes. At the same time, environmental concerns and regulatory constraints have limited the in situ application of GEMs, the ultimate objective behind their development. In order to address the anticipated risks due to the uncontrolled survival/dispersal of GEMs or recombinant plasmids into the environment, some attempts have been made to construct systems that would contain the released organisms. This article discusses the designing of safer genetically engineered organisms for environmental release with specific emphasis on the use of bacterial plasmid addiction systems to limit their survival thus minimizing the anticipated risk. We also conceptualize a novel strategy to construct “Suicidal Genetically Engineered Microorganisms (SGEMs)” by exploring/combining the knowledge of different plasmid addiction systems (such as antisense RNA-regulated plasmid addiction, proteic plasmid addiction etc.) and inducible degradative operons of bacteria. BioEssays 27:563–573, 2005. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.