Suicidal genetic elements and their use in biological containment of bacteria

Annu Rev Microbiol. 1993;47:139-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev.mi.47.100193.001035.


The potential risks of unintentional releases of genetically modified organisms, and the lack of predictable behavior of these in the environment, are the subject of considerable concern. This concern is accentuated in connection with the next phase of gene technology comprising deliberate releases. The possibilities of reducing such potential risks and increasing the predictability of the organisms are discussed for genetically engineered bacteria. Different approaches towards designing disabled strains without seriously reducing their beneficial effects are presented. Principally two types of strain design are discussed: actively contained bacteria based on the introduction of controlled suicide systems, and passively contained strains based on genetic interference with their survival under environmental-stress conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Containment of Biohazards*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, Lethal*