Exploiting Polyploidy for Markerless and Plasmid-Free Genome Engineering in Cyanobacteria

Christopher M. Jones, Sydney Parrish, David R. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Here we describe a universal approach for plasmid-free genome engineering in cyanobacteria that exploits the polyploidy of their chromosomes as a natural counterselection system. Rather than being delivered via replicating plasmids, genes encoding for DNA modifying enzymes are instead integrated into essential genes on the chromosome by allelic exchange, as facilitated by antibiotic selection, a process that occurs readily and with only minor fitness defects. By virtue of the essentiality of these integration sites, full segregation is never achieved, with the strain instead remaining as a merodiploid so long as antibiotic selection is maintained. As a result, once the desired genome modification is complete, removal of antibiotic selection results in the gene encoding for the DNA modifying enzyme to then be promptly eliminated from the population. Proof of concept of this new and generalizable strategy is provided using two different site-specific recombination systems, CRE-lox and DRE-rox, in the fast-growing cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, as well as CRE-lox in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Reusability of the method, meanwhile, is demonstrated by constructing a high-CO2 requiring and markerless Δndh3 Δndh4 ΔbicA ΔsbtA mutant of Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. Overall, this method enables the simple and efficient construction of stable and unmarked mutants in cyanobacteria without the need to develop additional shuttle vectors nor counterselection systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2371-2382
Number of pages12
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 17 2021


  • CRE-lox
  • cyanobacteria
  • genome engineering
  • polyploidy
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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