Development of an oxygen-independent flavin mononucleotide-based fluorescent reporter system in Clostridium beijerinckii and its potential applications

Seung Oh Seo, Ting Lu, Yong Su Jin, Hans P. Blaschek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Clostridium beijerinckii is a predominant solventogenic clostridia with great attraction for renewable liquid biofuel and biochemical production. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology can be employed to engineer the strain toward desirable phenotypes. However, current limited information such as promoter strength and gene regulation may hinder the efficient engineering of the strain. To investigate genetic information and complex cellular bioprocesses of C. beijerinckii, an in vivo fluorescence reporter system can be employed. In general, green fluorescence protein (GFP) and relative analogs have been widely used as real-time reporters. However, GFP-family proteins require molecular oxygen for fluorescence maturation. Considering the strict anaerobic growth requirement of the clostridia, an oxygen-independent fluorescence reporter such as a flavin mononucleotide-based fluorescent protein (FbFP) can be used as an alternative fluorescence reporter. In this study, we synthesized and expressed the codon-optimized FbFP gene for C. beijerinckii (CbFbFP) based on the nucleotide sequence of Bacillus subtilis YtvA variant EcFbFP in C. beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 wild-type. Protein expression and in vivo fluorescence of CbFbFP in C. beijeirnckii were confirmed under anaerobic growth conditions. Through fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), we isolated the bright cells from the heterogenous population of C. beijerinckii cells expressing CbFbFP. Several mutations were found in the isolated plasmid which may be responsible for the high-level expression of CbFbFP in C. beijerinckii. The mutant plasmid and CbFbFP reporter were further utilized for strain selection, real-time fluorescence measurement, population analysis, and metabolic engineering in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
StatePublished - Jan 10 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the IDOT grant # D6347 to HPB. The authors thank Dr. Charles M. Schroeder in UIUC for providing the several FbFPs for the initial selection process. We also thank Dr. Arnab Mukherjee in Caltech for helpful discussion on the FbFP expression and fluorescence real-time measurement.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Clostridium beijerinckii
  • FbFP
  • Flavin mononucleotide (FMN)-binding fluorescent protein
  • Fluorescence reporter
  • Metabolic engineering


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