Metal reduction by members of the Geobacteraceae is encoded by multiple gene clusters, and the study of extracellular electron transfer often requires biofilm development on surfaces. Genetic tools that utilize polar antibiotic cassette insertions limit mutant construction and complementation. In addition, unstable plasmids create metabolic burdens that slow growth, and the presence of antibiotics such as kanamycin can interfere with the rate and extent of Geobacter biofilm growth. We report here genetic system improvements for the model anaerobic metal-reducing bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens. A motile strain of G. sulfurreducens was constructed by precise removal of a transposon interrupting the fgrM flagellar regulator gene using SacB/ sucrose counterselection, and Fe(III) citrate reduction was eliminated by deletion of the gene encoding the inner membrane cytochrome imcH. We also show that RK2-based plasmids were maintained in G. sulfurreducens for over 15 generations in the absence of antibiotic selection in contrast to unstable pBBR1 plasmids. Therefore, we engineered a series of new RK2 vectors containing native constitutive Geobacter promoters, and modified one of these promoters for VanR-dependent induction by the small aromatic carboxylic acid vanillate. Inducible plasmids fully complemented ΔimcH mutants for Fe(III) reduction, Mn(IV) oxide reduction, and growth on poised electrodes. A real-time, high-throughput Fe(III) citrate reduction assay is described that can screen numerous G. sulfurreducens strain constructs simultaneously and shows the sensitivity of imcH expression by the vanillate system. These tools will enable more sophisticated genetic studies in G. sulfurreducens without polar insertion effects or need for multiple antibiotics.
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© 2015, American Society for Microbiology.