Development of an electrotransformation protocol for genetic manipulation of Clostridium pasteurianum Academic Article uri icon

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  • Abstract Background Reducing the production cost of, and increasing revenues from, industrial biofuels will greatly facilitate their proliferation and co-integration with fossil fuels. The cost of feedstock is the largest cost in most fermentation bioprocesses and therefore represents an important target for cost reduction. Meanwhile, the biorefinery concept advocates revenue growth through complete utilization of by-products generated during biofuel production. Taken together, the production of biofuels from low-cost crude glycerol, available in oversupply as a by-product of bioethanol production, in the form of thin stillage, and biodiesel production, embodies a remarkable opportunity to advance affordable biofuel development. However, few bacterial species possess the natural capacity to convert glycerol as a sole source of carbon and energy into value-added bioproducts. Of particular interest is the anaerobe Clostridium pasteurianum, the only microorganism known to convert glycerol alone directly into butanol, which currently holds immense promise as a high-energy biofuel and bulk chemical. Unfortunately, genetic and metabolic engineering of C. pasteurianum has been fundamentally impeded due to lack of an efficient method for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) transfer. Results This work reports the development of an electrotransformation protocol permitting high-level DNA transfer to C. pasteurianum ATCC 6013 together with accompanying selection markers and vector components. The CpaAI restriction-modification system was found to be a major barrier to DNA delivery into C. pasteurianum which we overcame by in vivo methylation of the recognition site (5’-CGCG-3’) using the M.FnuDII methyltransferase. With proper selection of the replication origin and antibiotic-resistance marker, we initially electroporated methylated DNA into C. pasteurianum at a low efficiency of 2.4 × 101 transformants μg-1 DNA by utilizing conditions common to other clostridial electroporations. Systematic investigation of various parameters involved in the cell growth, washing and pulse delivery, and outgrowth phases of the electrotransformation procedure significantly elevated the electrotransformation efficiency, up to 7.5 × 104 transformants μg-1 DNA, an increase of approximately three order of magnitude. Key factors affecting the electrotransformation efficiency include cell-wall-weakening using glycine, ethanol-mediated membrane solubilization, field strength of the electric pulse, and sucrose osmoprotection. Conclusions C. pasteurianum ATCC 6013 can be electrotransformed at a high efficiency using appropriately methylated plasmid DNA. The electrotransformation method and tools reported here should promote extensive genetic manipulation and metabolic engineering of this biotechnologically important bacterium.


  • Pyne, Michael E
  • Moo-Young, Murray
  • Chung, Duane
  • Chou, C Perry

publication date

  • December 2013