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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Biological Procedures Online.

Volume 18, Issue 1, 2016, Article number 3.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1186/s12575-015-0032-8

Copyright © Egan et al. 2016

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


BACKGROUND: The ability to introduce site-specific mutations in bacterial pathogens is essential towards understanding their molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity. This has been greatly facilitated by the genetic engineering technique of recombineering. In recombineering, linear double- or single-stranded DNA molecules with two terminal homology arms are electroporated into hyperrecombinogenic bacteria that express a phage-encoded recombinase. The recombinase catalyzes the replacement of the endogenous allele with the exogenous allele to generate selectable or screenable recombinants. In particular, lambda red recombinase has been instrumental in engineering mutations to characterize the virulence arsenal of the attaching and effacing (A/E) pathogens enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), and Citrobacter rodentium. Escherichia albertii is another member of this taxon; however, the virulence of E. albertii remains cryptic despite accumulating evidence that E. albertii is an emerging pathogen. Multiple retrospective studies have reported that a substantial number of EPEC and EHEC isolates (~15 %) that were previously incriminated in human outbreaks actually belong to the E. albertii lineage. Thus, there is increased urgency to reliably identify and rapidly engineer mutations in E. albertii to systematically characterize its virulence determinants. To the best of our knowledge not a single chromosomal gene has been altered by targeted mutagenesis in E. albertii since it was first isolated almost 25 years ago. This is disconcerting because an E. albertii outbreak could cause significant morbidity and mortality owing to our inadequate understanding of its virulence program.

RESULTS: In this report we describe a modified lambda red recombineering protocol to mutagenize E. albertii. As proof of principle, we successfully deleted three distinct virulence-associated genetic loci - ler, grlRA, and hfq - and replaced each wild type allele by a mutant allele with an encodable drug resistance cassette bracketed by FRT sites. Subsequently, the FRT-site flanked drug resistance marker was evicted by FLP-dependent site-specific recombination to generate excisants containing a solitary FRT site.

CONCLUSIONS: Our protocol will enable researchers to construct marked and unmarked genome-wide mutations in E. albertii, which, in turn, will illuminate its molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity and aid in developing appropriate preventative and therapeutic approaches to combat E. albertii outbreaks.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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