Controlling Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus Gene Expression and Predation Using Synthetic Riboswitches

ACS Synth Biol. 2017 Nov 17;6(11):2035-2041. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.7b00171. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is a predatory bacterium that feeds on Gram-negative bacteria including a wide range of pathogens and thus has potential applications as a biocontrol agent. Owing to its unique life cycle, however, there are limited tools that enable genetic manipulation of B. bacteriovorus. This work describes our first steps toward engineering the predatory bacterium for practical applications by developing basic genetic parts to control gene expression. Specifically, we evaluated four robust promoters that are active during the attack phase of B. bacteriovorus. Subsequently, we tested several synthetic riboswitches that have been reported to function in Escherichia coli, and identified theophylline-activated riboswitches that function in B. bacteriovorus. Finally, we inserted the riboswitch into the bacterial chromosome to regulate expression of the flagellar sigma factor fliA, which was previously predicted to be essential for predation, and observed that the engineered strain shows a faster predation kinetics in the presence of theophylline.

Keywords: Bdellovibrio; predation; riboswitch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins* / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins* / metabolism
  • Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus* / genetics
  • Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Riboswitch*
  • Sigma Factor* / genetics
  • Sigma Factor* / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • FliA protein, Bacteria
  • Riboswitch
  • Sigma Factor