Continuous control of the flow in biochemical pathways through 5' untranslated region sequence modifications in mRNA expressed from the broad-host-range promoter Pm.
ABSTRACT The inducible Pm promoter integrated into broad-host-range plasmid RK2 replicons can be fine-tuned continuously between the uninduced and maximally induced levels by varying the inducer concentrations. To lower the uninduced background level while still maintaining the inducibility for applications in, for example, metabolic engineering and synthetic (systems) biology, we report here the use of mutations in the Pm DNA region corresponding to the 5' untranslated region of mRNA (UTR). Five UTR variants obtained by doped oligonucleotide mutagenesis and selection, apparently reducing the efficiency of translation, were all found to display strongly reduced uninduced expression of three different reporter genes (encoding β-lactamase, luciferase, and phosphoglucomutase) in Escherichia coli. The ratio between induced and uninduced expression remained the same or higher compared to cells containing a corresponding plasmid with the wild-type UTR. Interestingly, the UTR variants also displayed similar effects on expression when substituted for the native UTR in another and constitutive promoter, P1 (P(antitet)), indicating a broad application potential of these UTR variants. Two of the selected variants were used to control the production of the C(50) carotenoid sarcinaxanthin in an engineered strain of E. coli that produces the precursor lycopene. Sarcinaxanthin is produced in this particular strain by expressing three Micrococcus luteus derived genes from the promoter Pm. The results indicated that UTR variants can be used to eliminate sarcinaxanthin production under uninduced conditions, whereas cells containing the corresponding plasmid with a wild-type UTR produced ca. 25% of the level observed under induced conditions.