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Synthetic Biology Toolbox, Including a Single-Plasmid CRISPR-Cas9 System to Biologically Engineer the Electrogenic, Metal-Resistant Bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34

Turco, Federico; Garavaglia, Marco; Van Houdt, Rob; Hill, Phil; Rawson, Frankie J.; Kovacs, Katalin


Federico Turco

Rob Van Houdt

Associate Professor


Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34 exhibits extraordinary metabolic versatility, including chemolithoautotrophic growth; degradation of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene); high resistance to numerous metals; biomineralization of gold, platinum, silver, and uranium; and accumulation of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). These qualities make it a valuable host for biotechnological applications such as bioremediation, bioprocessing, and the generation of bioelectricity in microbial fuel cells (MFCs). However, the lack of genetic tools for strain development and studying its fundamental physiology represents a bottleneck to boosting its commercial applications. In this study, inducible and constitutive promoter libraries were built and characterized, providing the first comprehensive list of biological parts that can be used to regulate protein expression and optimize the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools for this host. A single-plasmid CRISPR-Cas9 system that can be delivered by both conjugation and electroporation was developed, and its efficiency was demonstrated by successfully targeting the pyrE locus. The CRISPR-Cas9 system was next used to target candidate genes encoding type IV pili, hypothesized by us to be involved in extracellular electron transfer (EET) in this organism. Single and double deletion strains (ΔpilA, ΔpilE, and ΔpilAE) were successfully generated. Additionally, the CRISPR-Cas9 tool was validated for constructing genomic insertions (ΔpilAE::gfp and ΔpilAE::λPrgfp). Finally, as type IV pili are believed to play an important role in extracellular electron transfer to solid surfaces, C. metallidurans CH34 ΔpilAE was further studied by means of cyclic voltammetry using disposable screen-printed carbon electrodes. Under these conditions, we demonstrated that C. metallidurans CH34 could generate extracellular currents; however, no difference in the intensity of the current peaks was found in the ΔpilAE double deletion strain when compared to the wild type. This finding suggests that the deleted type IV pili candidate genes are not involved in extracellular electron transfer under these conditions. Nevertheless, these experiments revealed the presence of different redox centers likely to be involved in both mediated electron transfer (MET) and direct electron transfer (DET), the first interpretation of extracellular electron transfer mechanisms in C. metallidurans CH34.


Turco, F., Garavaglia, M., Van Houdt, R., Hill, P., Rawson, F. J., & Kovacs, K. (2022). Synthetic Biology Toolbox, Including a Single-Plasmid CRISPR-Cas9 System to Biologically Engineer the Electrogenic, Metal-Resistant Bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34. ACS Synthetic Biology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 24, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 24, 2022
Publication Date Oct 24, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 27, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal ACS Synthetic Biology
Electronic ISSN 2161-5063
Publisher American Chemical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous), Biomedical Engineering, General Medicine
Public URL
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