A Methylation-Directed, Synthetic Pap Switch Based on Self-Complementary Regulatory DNA in an All-E. Coli Cell-Free Expression System

24 December 2020, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Pyelonephritis-associated pili (pap) enable migration of the uropathogenic Escherichia coli strain (UPEC) through the urinary tract. UPEC can switch between a stable 'ON phase' where the corresponding pap genes are expressed and a stable 'OFF phase' where their transcription is repressed. Hereditary, alternate DNA methylation of only two GATC motives within the regulatory region stabilizes the respective phase over many generations. The underlying molecular mechanism is only partly understood. Previous investigations suggest that in vivo phase-variation stability results from cooperative action of the transcriptional regulators Lrp and PapI. Here, we use an E. coli cell-free expression system to study the function of pap regulatory region based on a specially designed, synthetic construct flanked by two reporter genes encoding fluorescent proteins for simple readout. Based on our observations we suggest that Lrp and the conformation of the self-complementary regulatory DNA play a strong role in the regulation of phase-variation. Our work not only contributes to better understand the phase variation mechanism, but it represents a successful start for engineering stable, hereditary and strong expression control based on methylation.


Cell free expression system
Epigenetic regulation
E.coli expression system
Genetic switch


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.