Genome engineering in Bacillus anthracis using Cre recombinase

Infect Immun. 2006 Jan;74(1):682-93. doi: 10.1128/IAI.74.1.682-693.2006.


Genome engineering is a powerful method for the study of bacterial virulence. With the availability of the complete genomic sequence of Bacillus anthracis, it is now possible to inactivate or delete selected genes of interest. However, many current methods for disrupting or deleting more than one gene require use of multiple antibiotic resistance determinants. In this report we used an approach that temporarily inserts an antibiotic resistance marker into a selected region of the genome and subsequently removes it, leaving the target region (a single gene or a larger genomic segment) permanently mutated. For this purpose, a spectinomycin resistance cassette flanked by bacteriophage P1 loxP sites oriented as direct repeats was inserted within a selected gene. After identification of strains having the spectinomycin cassette inserted by a double-crossover event, a thermo-sensitive plasmid expressing Cre recombinase was introduced at the permissive temperature. Cre recombinase action at the loxP sites excised the spectinomycin marker, leaving a single loxP site within the targeted gene or genomic segment. The Cre-expressing plasmid was then removed by growth at the restrictive temperature. The procedure could then be repeated to mutate additional genes. In this way, we sequentially mutated two pairs of genes: pepM and spo0A, and mcrB and mrr. Furthermore, loxP sites introduced at distant genes could be recombined by Cre recombinase to cause deletion of large intervening regions. In this way, we deleted the capBCAD region of the pXO2 plasmid and the entire 30 kb of chromosomal DNA between the mcrB and mrr genes, and in the latter case we found that the 32 intervening open reading frames were not essential to growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus anthracis / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Integrases / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified*
  • Plasmids
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases