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Biological Research

Print version ISSN 0716-9760

Abstract

STUCKEN, Karina; KOCH, Robin  and  DAGAN, Tal. Cyanobacterial defense mechanisms against foreign DNA transfer and their impact on genetic engineering. Biol. Res. [online]. 2013, vol.46, n.4, pp.373-382. ISSN 0716-9760.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0716-97602013000400009.

Cyanobacteria display a large diversity of cellular forms ranging from unicellular to complex multicellular filaments or aggregates. Species in the group present a wide range of metabolic characteristics including the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, resistance to extreme environments, production of hydrogen, secondary metabolites and exopolysaccharides. These characteristics led to the growing interest in cyanobacteria across the fields of ecology, evolution, cell biology and biotechnology. The number of available cyanobacterial genome sequences has increased considerably in recent years, with more than 140 fully sequenced genomes to date. Genetic engineering of cyanobacteria is widely applied to the model unicellular strains Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942. However the establishment of transformation protocols in many other cyanobacterial strains is challenging. One obstacle to the development of these novel model organisms is that many species have doubling times of 48 h or more, much longer than the bacterial models E. coli or B. subtilis. Furthermore, cyanobacterial defense mechanisms against foreign DNA pose a physical and biochemical barrier to DNA insertion in most strains. Here we review the various barriers to DNA uptake in the context of lateral gene transfer among microbes and the various mechanisms for DNA acquisition within the prokaryotic domain. Understanding the cyanobacterial defense mechanisms is expected to assist in the development and establishment of novel transformation protocols that are specifically suitable for this group.

Keywords : Cyanobacteria; Genetic engineering; Defense mechanism; Restriction-modification.

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