Examination of Genetic Control Elements in the Phototrophic Firmicute Heliomicrobium modesticaldum

Alexandria M. Layton, Kevin E. Redding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heliomicrobium modesticaldum has been used as a model organism for the Heliobacteria, the only phototrophic family in the Firmicutes. It is a moderately thermophilic anoxygenic phototrophic bacterium that is capable of fermentative growth in the dark. The genetic manipulation of H. modesticaldum is still in its infancy. Methods to introduce genes through the use of exogenous plasmids and to delete genes from the chromosome through the use of the native CRISPR/Cas system have been developed in the last several years. To expand our genetic toolkit, it was necessary to control gene expression. In this study, we analyzed constitutive and inducible promoters developed for clostridia for their use in H. modesticaldum and further tested two reporters, adhB and lacZ, as indicators of promoter strength. Alcohol dehydrogenase (AdhB) was unsuitable as a reporter in this species due to high endogenous activity and/or low activity of the reporter, but a thermostable LacZ worked well as a reporter. A set of constitutive promoters previously reported to work in Clostridium thermocellum was found to be reliable for controlling the expression of the lacZ reporter gene in H. modesticaldum at a range of activities spanning an order of magnitude. An anhydrotetracycline-inducible promoter was created by inserting tetO operators into a strong constitutive promoter, but it was not fully repressible. The implementation of a xylose-inducible promoter resulted in complete repression of β-gal in the absence of xylose, and reliable expression tunable through the concentration of xylose added to the culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number876
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Heliobacteria
  • gene expression
  • phototrophic bacteria
  • promoters
  • reporters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology


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