Blue/white screening of recombinant plasmids in Gram-positive bacteria by interruption of alkaline phosphatase gene (phoZ) expression

Gene. 1998 Sep 28;219(1-2):91-9. doi: 10.1016/s0378-1119(98)00396-5.


The process of screening bacterial transformants for recombinant plasmids is made more rapid and simple by the use of vectors with visually detectable reporter genes. In such systems, an alteration in colony phenotype occurs when a vector-borne indicator gene is interrupted with exogenous DNA. Although the lacZ system has been used extensively for this purpose in E. coli, analogous systems for use in Gram-positive bacteria remain uncommon. We have developed a Gram-positive cloning vector that utilizes the interruption of an alkaline phosphatase gene, phoZ, to identify recombinant plasmids. To facilitate introduction of foreign DNA, a multiple cloning site (MCS) was inserted distal to the region coding for the putative signal peptide of phoZ. Alkaline phosphatase expressed from the derivative phoZ gene (phoZMCS) retained activity similar to that of the native protein. The phoZMCS was transferred to pJS3, a well-characterized, high-copy number, and broad-host-range plasmid, to produce pDC123. In pDC123, phoZMCS was transcriptionally linked to the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (cat) gene under the control of the constitutively expressed tetM and cat promoters that drive cat expression in pJS3. S. agalactiae (Group B streptococci, GBS), E. faecalis, S. pyogenes, S. gordonii, and E. coli containing pDC123 displayed a blue colonial phenotype on agar containing 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl phosphate (X-p), which was readily distinguished from that of colonies containing the parent plasmid pJS3. Introduction of foreign DNA into the MCS of phoZMCS produced a white colonial phenotype in E. coli and GBS on agar containing X-p and allowed discrimination between transformants containing recombinant plasmids versus those maintaining self-annealed or uncut vector. We have used pDC123 to subclone the cpsE gene from the plasmid pCER111, which carries a 9.0-kb fragment of the GBS capsular polysaccharide synthesis locus. The plasmid pDC123 containing cpsE was isolated by direct electroporation into GBS strain A909 with selection of transformants containing recombinant plasmids achieved by 'blue/white' screening, without the use of an intermediate host. This new cloning vector should improve the efficiency of performing recombinant DNA experiments in Gram-positive bacteria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / biosynthesis
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / genetics*
  • Chloramphenicol O-Acetyltransferase
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Enterococcus faecalis / enzymology
  • Enterococcus faecalis / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics*
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Streptococcus / enzymology
  • Streptococcus / genetics
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / enzymology
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / genetics
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / enzymology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Chloramphenicol O-Acetyltransferase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase