Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.105, No.18, 6835-6852, 2021
Highly tunable TetR-dependent target gene expression in the acetic acid bacterium Gluconobacter oxydans
For the acetic acid bacterium (AAB) Gluconobacter oxydans only recently the first tight system for regulatable target gene expression became available based on the heterologous repressor-activator protein AraC from Escherichia coli and the target promoter P-araBAD. In this study, we tested pure repressor-based TetR- and LacI-dependent target gene expression in G. oxydans by applying the same plasmid backbone and construction principles that we have used successfully for the araC-P-araBAD system. When using a pBBR1MCS-5-based plasmid, the non-induced basal expression of the Tn10-based TetR-dependent expression system was extremely low. This allowed calculated induction ratios of up to more than 3500-fold with the fluorescence reporter protein mNeonGreen (mNG). The induction was highly homogeneous and tunable by varying the anhydrotetracycline concentration from 10 to 200 ng/mL. The already strong reporter gene expression could be doubled by inserting the ribosome binding site AGGAGA into the 3' region of the P-tet sequence upstream from mNG. Alternative plasmid constructs used as controls revealed a strong influence of transcription terminators and antibiotics resistance gene of the plasmid backbone on the resulting expression performance. In contrast to the TetR-P-tet-system, pBBR1MCS-5-based LacI-dependent expression from P-lacUV5 always exhibited some non-induced basal reporter expression and was therefore tunable only up to 40-fold induction by IPTG. The leakiness of P-lacUV5 when not induced was independent of potential read-through from the lacI promoter. Protein-DNA binding simulations for pH 7, 6, 5, and 4 by computational modeling of LacI, TetR, and AraC with DNA suggested a decreased DNA binding of LacI when pH is below 6, the latter possibly causing the leakiness of LacI-dependent systems hitherto tested in AAB. In summary, the expression performance of the pBBR1MCS-5-based TetR-P-tet system makes this system highly suitable for applications in G. oxydans and possibly in other AAB.