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Abstract

The use of antibiotic-resistance genes as selectable markers in transgenic organisms is coming under increased scrutiny, for fear that they may spread to human pathogens, thereby reducing the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy. A current Pseudomonas fluorescens protein expression system uses a tetracycline resistance gene (tetR/tetA) to maintain an expression plasmid under control of a repressible promoter and a kanamycin resistance gene (kanR) to maintain a plasmid carrying a repressor gene. We investigated using auxotrophic markers to replace these two antibiotic resistance genes: pyrF (encoding orotidine-5′-phosphate decarboxylase) in place of tetR/tetA and proC (encoding pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase) in place of kanR, complementing their respective precise chromosomal deletions created by allele exchange using a suicide vector carrying pyrF as a counterselectable marker. The resulting strains, devoid of antibiotic-resistance genes, were shown to achieve high productivity of nitrilase and thermostable α-amylase equal to that of the former antibiotic-resistant production host. The production plasmids were stable. The pyrF (uracil-dependent) background of the production host strain also allows us to sequentially alter the genome to incorporate other desired genomic changes, deletions, or insertions using 5′-fluoroorotic acid counterselection, restoring the selectable marker after each step.