Use of the alr gene as a food-grade selection marker in lactic acid bacteria

P.A. Bron, M.G. Benchimol, J. Lambert, E. Palumbo, M. Deghorain, J. Delcour, W.M. de Vos, M. Kleerebezem, P. Hols

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Both Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus plantarum contain a single alr gene, encoding an alanine racemase (EC, which catalyzes the interconversion of D-alanine and L-alanine. The alr genes of these lactic acid bacteria were investigated for their application as food-grade selection markers in a heterologous complementation approach. Since isogenic mutants of both species carrying an alr deletion (alr) showed auxotrophy for D-alanine, plasmids carrying a heterologous alr were constructed and could be selected, since they complemented D-alanine auxotrophy in the L. plantarum alr and L. lactis alr strains. Selection was found to be highly stringent, and plasmids were stably maintained over 200 generations of culturing. Moreover, the plasmids carrying the heterologous alr genes could be stably maintained in wild-type strains of L. plantarum and L. lactis by selection for resistance to D-cycloserine, a competitive inhibitor of Alr (600 and 200 ?g/ml, respectively). In addition, a plasmid carrying the L. plantarum alr gene under control of the regulated nisA promoter was constructed to demonstrate that D-cycloserine resistance of L. lactis is linearly correlated to the alr expression level. Finally, the L. lactis alr gene controlled by the nisA promoter, together with the nisin-regulatory genes nisRK, were integrated into the chromosome of L. plantarum alr. The resulting strain could grow in the absence of D-alanine only when expression of the alr gene was induced with nisin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5663-5670
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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