Therapeutic Drug Delivery by Genetically Modified Lactococcus lactis


Address for correspondence: Lothar Steidler, Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Transgenic Bacteriology, University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland. Voice: +353-21-490-1383; fax: +353-21-490-1377.


Abstract: Food-grade bacteria have been consumed throughout history without associated pathologies and are, therefore, absolutely safe to ingest. Unexpectedly, Lactococcus lactis (L. lactis), known from cheese production, can be genetically engineered to constantly secrete satisfactory amounts of bioactive cytokines. Both of these features enabled the development of a new kind of topical delivery system: topical and active delivery of therapeutic proteins by genetically modified micro-organisms. The host organism's record inspired the development of applications that target intestinal diseases. In a variety of mouse models, chronic colon inflammation can be successfully treated with (interleukin) IL-10–secreting L. lactis. Trefoil factor (TFF) producer strains have also been shown to be very effective in the treatment of acute colitis. Such novel therapeutic strains are textbook examples of genetically modified (GM) organisms. There are legitimate concerns with regard to the deliberate release of GM micro-organisms. On development of these applications, therefore, we have engineered these bacteria in such a way that biological containment is guaranteed. The essential gene thyA, encoding thymidylate synthase, has been exchanged for IL-10. This makes the GM strain critically dependent on thymidine. Lack of thymidine, for example, resulting from thymidine consumption by thyA-deficient strains–will irreversibly lead to induced “thymidine-less death.” This accomplishment has created the possibility of using this strategy for application in human medicine.