Assembling DNA fragments by USER fusion

Methods Mol Biol. 2012:852:77-95. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-564-0_7.


Recent advances in DNA synthesis technology make it possible to design and synthesize DNA fragments of several kb in size. However, the process of assembling the smaller DNA fragments into a larger DNA segment is still a cumbersome process. In this chapter, we describe the use of the uracil specific excision reaction (USER)-mediated approach for rapid and efficient assembly of multiple DNA fragments both in vitro and in vivo (using Escherichia coli). For USER fusion in vitro assembly, each of the individual building blocks (BBs), 0.75 kb in size (that are to be assembled), was amplified using the appropriate forward and reverse primers containing a single uracil (U) and DNA polymerase. The overlaps between adjoining BBs were 8-13 base pairs. An equimolar of the amplified BBs were mixed together and treated by USER enzymes to generate complementary 3' single-strand overhangs between adjoining BBs, which were then ligated and amplified simultaneously to generate the larger 3-kb segments. The assembled fragments were then cloned into plasmid vectors and sequenced to confirm their identity. For USER fusion in vivo assembly in E. coli, USER treatment of the BBs was performed in the presence of a synthetic plasmid, which had 8-13 base pair overlaps at the 5'-end of the 5' BB and at the 3'-end of the 3' BB in the mixture. The USER treated product was then transformed directly into E. coli to efficiently and correctly reconstitute the recombinant plasmid containing the desired target insert. The latter approach was also used to rapidly assemble three different target genes into a vector to form a new synthetic plasmid construct.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Uracil / metabolism*


  • Uracil
  • DNA
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes