A multi-layer-controlled strategy for cloning and expression of toxin genes in Escherichia coli

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Molecular cloning and controlled expression remain challenging when the target gene encodes a protein that is toxic to the host. We developed a set of multi-layer control systems to enable cloning of genes encoding proteins known to be highly toxic in Escherichia coli and other bacteria. The different multi-layer control systems combine a promoter–operator system on a transcriptional level with a riboswitch for translational control. Additionally, replicational control is ensured by using a strain that reduces the plasmid copy number. The use of weaker promoters (such as PBAD or PfdeA) in combination with the effective theophylline riboswitch is essential for cloning genes that encode notoriously toxic proteins that directly target translation and transcription. Controlled overexpression is possible, allowing the system to be used for evaluating in vivo effects of the toxin. Systems with a stronger promoter can be used for successful overexpression and purification of the desired protein but are limited to toxins that are more moderate and do not interfere with their own production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number508
Number of pages17
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants G.0226.17N and G003320N from FWO-Vlaanderen. Y.G. acknowledges the receipt of a personal PhD mandate from FWO-Vlaanderen (grants 1164620N and 1164622N).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • toxin-antitoxin system
  • riboswitch
  • bacterial expression
  • bacterial cloning
  • toxin
  • transcriptional control
  • translational control
  • replicational control


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