Low-copy plasmids can perform as well as or better than high-copy plasmids for metabolic engineering of bacteria

Metabolic Engineering
K L JonesJ D Keasling


Multicopy plasmids are often chosen for the expression of recombinant genes in Escherichia coli. The high copy number is generally desired for maximum gene expression; however, the metabolic burden effects that usually result from multiple plasmid copies could prove to be detrimental for maximum productivity in certain metabolic engineering applications. In this study, low-copy mini-F plasmids were compared to high-copy pMB1-based plasmids for production of two metabolites in E. coli: polyphosphate (polyP) and lycopene derived from isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP). The stationary-phase accumulation of polyP on a per cell basis was enhanced approximately 80% when either high- or low-copy plasmids were used, from 120 micromol/g DCW without augmented polyP kinase (PPK) activity to approximately 220 micromol/g DCW. The cell density of the high-copy plasmid-containing culture at stationary phase was approximately 24% lower than the low-copy culture and 30% lower than the control culture. This difference in cell density is likely a metabolic burden effect and resulted in a lower overall product concentration for the high-copy culture (approximately 130 micromol/L culture) relative to the low-copy culture (approximately 160 micromol/L cu...Continue Reading


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