Construction of Listeria monocytogenes mutants by allelic exchange has been laborious and time-consuming due to lack of proficient selection markers for the final recombination event, that is, a marker conveying substance sensitivity to the bacteria bearing it, enabling the exclusion of merodiploids and selection for plasmid loss. In order to address this issue, we engineered a counterselection marker based on a mutated phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase gene (pheS*). This mutation renders the phenylalanine-binding site of the enzyme more promiscuous and allows the binding of the toxic p-chloro-phenylalanine analog (p-Cl-phe) as a substrate. When pheS* is introduced into L. monocytogenes and highly expressed under control of a constitutively active promoter, the bacteria become sensitive to p-Cl-phe supplemented in the medium. This enabled us to utilize pheS* as a negative selection marker and generate a novel, efficient suicide vector for allelic exchange in L. monocytogenes. We used this vector to investigate the monocin genomic region in L. monocytogenes strain 10403S by constructing deletion mutants of the region. We have found this region to be active and to cause bacterial lysis upon mitomycin C treatment. The future applications of such an effective counterselection system, which does not require any background genomic alterations, are vast, as it can be modularly used in various selection systems (e.g., genetic screens). We expect this counterselection marker to be a valuable genetic tool in research on L. monocytogenes.
- Allelic exchange
- Listeria monocytogenes