Bacterial Molecular Genetics & Computational Biology: “Improved mini-Tn7 Delivery Plasmids for Fluorescent Labeling of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia”

Cellular Microbiology, Priority Research Area Infections, Research Center Borstel, Leibniz Lung Center & Institut de Biotecnologia i de Biomedicina (IBB), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2023 May 17:e0031723. doi: 10.1128/aem.00317-23PMID: 37195181


Fluorescently labeled bacterial cells have become indispensable for many aspects of microbiological research, including studies on biofilm formation as an important virulence factor of various opportunistic bacteria of environmental origin such as Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. Using a Tn7-based genomic integration system, we report the construction of improved mini-Tn7 delivery plasmids for labeling of S. maltophilia with sfGFP, mCherry, tdTomato and mKate2 by expressing their codon-optimized genes from a strong, constitutive promoter and an optimized ribosomal binding site. Transposition of the mini-Tn7 transposons into single neutral sites located on average 25 nucleotides downstream of the 3′-end of the conserved glmS gene of different S. maltophilia wild-type strains did not have any adverse effects on the fitness of their fluorescently labeled derivatives. This was demonstrated by comparative analyses of growth, resistance profiles against 18 antibiotics of different classes, the ability to form biofilms on abiotic and biotic surfaces, also independent of the fluorescent protein expressed, and virulence in Galleria mellonella. It is also shown that the mini-Tn7 elements remained stably integrated in the genome of S. maltophilia over a prolonged period of time in the absence of antibiotic selection pressure. Overall, we provide evidence that the new improved mini-Tn7 delivery plasmids are valuable tools for generating fluorescently labeled S. maltophilia strains that are indistinguishable in their properties from their parental wild-type strains.

IMPORTANCE The bacterium S. maltophilia is an important opportunistic nosocomial pathogen that can cause bacteremia and pneumonia in immunocompromised patients with a high rate of mortality. It is now considered as a clinically relevant and notorious pathogen in cystic fibrosis patients but has also been isolated from lung specimen of healthy donors. The high intrinsic resistance to a wide range of antibiotics complicates treatment and most likely contributes to the increasing incidence of S. maltophilia infections worldwide. One important virulence-related trait of S. maltophilia is the ability to form biofilms on any surface, which may result in the development of increased transient phenotypic resistance to antimicrobials. The significance of our work is to provide a mini-Tn7-based labeling system for S. maltophilia to study the mechanisms of biofilm formation or host-pathogen interactions with live bacteria under non-destructive conditions.