Emerging strategies for engineering Escherichia coli Nissle 1917-based therapeutics

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2022 Sep;43(9):772-786. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2022.02.002. Epub 2022 Feb 26.


Engineered microbes are rapidly being developed for the delivery of therapeutic modalities to sites of disease. Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (EcN), a genetically tractable probiotic with a well-established human safety record, is emerging as a favored chassis. Here, we summarize the latest progress in rationally engineered variants of EcN for the treatment of infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) when administered orally, as well as cancers when injected directly into tumors or the systemic circulation. We also discuss emerging studies that raise potential safety concerns regarding these EcN-based strains as therapeutics due to their secretion of a genotoxic colibactin that can promote the formation of DNA double-stranded breaks in mammalian DNA.

Keywords: Escherichia coli Nissle 1917; bioengineering; colibactin; microbial therapeutics; synthetic biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases*
  • Mammals
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use