Isolation and characterization of novel mutations in the pSC101 origin that increase copy number

Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 25;8(1):1590. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20016-w.


pSC101 is a narrow host range, low-copy plasmid commonly used for genetically manipulating Escherichia coli. As a byproduct of a genetic screen for a more sensitive lactam biosensor, we identified multiple novel mutations that increase the copy number of plasmids with the pSC101 origin. All mutations identified in this study occurred on plasmids which also contained at least one mutation localized to the RepA protein encoded within the origin. Homology modelling predicts that many of these mutations occur within the dimerization interface of RepA. Mutant RepA resulted in plasmid copy numbers between ~31 and ~113 copies/cell, relative to ~5 copies/cell in wild-type pSC101 plasmids. Combining the mutations that were predicted to disrupt multiple contacts on the dimerization interface resulted in copy numbers of ~500 copies/cell, while also attenuating growth in host strains. Fluorescent protein production expressed from an arabinose-inducible promoter on mutant origin derived plasmids did correlate with copy number. Plasmids harboring RepA with one of two mutations, E83K and N99D, resulted in fluorescent protein production similar to that from p15a- (~20 copies/cell) and ColE1- (~31 copies/cell) based plasmids, respectively. The mutant copy number variants retained compatibility with p15a, pBBR, and ColE1 origins of replication. These pSC101 variants may be useful in future metabolic engineering efforts that require medium or high-copy vectors compatible with p15a- and ColE1-based plasmids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Copy Number Variations*
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation*
  • Plasmids*
  • Replication Origin*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics


  • Mutant Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • replication initiator protein
  • DNA Helicases