Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) play an important role in agricultural as well as industrial biotechnology. Development of improved LAB strains using e.g. library approaches is often limited by low transformation efficiencies wherefore one reason could be differences in the DNA methylation patterns between the Escherichia coli intermediate host for plasmid amplification and the final LAB host. In the present study, we examined the influence of DNA methylation on transformation efficiency in LAB and developed a direct cloning approach for Lactobacillus plantarum CD033. Therefore, we propagated plasmid pCD256 in E. coli strains with different dam/dcm-methylation properties. The obtained plasmid DNA was purified and transformed into three different L. plantarum strains and a selection of other LAB species.
Best transformation efficiencies were obtained using the strain L. plantarum CD033 and non-methylated plasmid DNA. Thereby we achieved transformation efficiencies of 109 colony forming units/g DNA in L. plantarum CD033 which is in the range of transformation efficiencies reached with E. coli. Based on these results, we directly transformed recombinant expression vectors received from PCR/ligation reactions into L. plantarum CD033, omitting plasmid amplification in E. coli. Also this approach was successful and yielded a sufficient number of recombinant clones.
Transformation efficiency of L. plantarum CD033 was drastically increased when non-methylated plasmid DNA was used, providing the possibility to generate expression libraries in this organism. A direct cloning approach, whereby ligated PCR-products where successfully transformed directly into L. plantarum CD033, obviates the construction of shuttle vectors containing E. coli-specific sequences, as e.g. a ColEI origin of replication, and makes amplification of these vectors in E. coli obsolete. Thus, plasmid constructs become much smaller and occasional structural instability or mutagenesis during E. coli propagation is excluded. The results of our study provide new genetic tools for L. plantarum which will allow fast, forward and systems based genetic engineering of this species.