The inactivation of proteins in cells is inevitable to study their physiological role in various cellular processes. In contrast to strategies to alter the amount of active proteins in cells, only a gene knockout guarantees complete removal of the protein of interest. For Dictyostelium discoideum cells, the gene replacement construct typically consists of a Blasticidin S resistance (Bsr) cassette flanked by fragments of the target gene to allow insertion by homologous recombination. More advanced knockout constructs additionally carry loxP sites on both sides of the Bsr cassettes for subsequent removal of the selection marker by transient expression of Cre recombinase, thus allowing generation of multiple knockouts using just a single selection marker. However, due to its design, the available neomycin selection-based Cre expression plasmid occasionally tends to integrate into the genome and also yield only a moderate number of transfectants in liquid media. In some cases, for instance in SCAR-null cells, it was not possible to remove the Bsr cassette without stable integration of the Cre expression vector into the genome. To circumvent these difficulties we designed the extrachromosomal Cre-recombinase expression vector pTX-NLS-Cre. We verified the greatly improved efficacy of this novel Cre-loxP approach by removal of the Bsr cassette in five different cell lines including the SCAR-null mutant. As a consequence, this vector will be a highly valuable means for the rapid generation of single or multiple mutants remaining sensitive to the most reliable selection markers Blasticidin S and neomycin.
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