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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Development of a gene cloning system in a fast-growing and moderately thermophilic Streptomyces species and heterologous expression of Streptomyces antibiotic biosynthetic gene clusters

Weihua Chen and Zhongjun Qin*

Author Affiliations

Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology, Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 300 Fenglin Road, Shanghai, 20032, People's Republic of China

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:243  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-243

Published: 28 October 2011



Streptomyces species are a major source of antibiotics. They usually grow slowly at their optimal temperature and fermentation of industrial strains in a large scale often takes a long time, consuming more energy and materials than some other bacterial industrial strains (e.g., E. coli and Bacillus). Most thermophilic Streptomyces species grow fast, but no gene cloning systems have been developed in such strains.


We report here the isolation of 41 fast-growing (about twice the rate of S. coelicolor), moderately thermophilic (growing at both 30°C and 50°C) Streptomyces strains, detection of one linear and three circular plasmids in them, and sequencing of a 6996-bp plasmid, pTSC1, from one of them. pTSC1-derived pCWH1 could replicate in both thermophilic and mesophilic Streptomyces strains. On the other hand, several Streptomyces replicons function in thermophilic Streptomyces species. By examining ten well-sporulating strains, we found two promising cloning hosts, 2C and 4F. A gene cloning system was established by using the two strains. The actinorhodin and anthramycin biosynthetic gene clusters from mesophilic S. coelicolor A3(2) and thermophilic S. refuineus were heterologously expressed in one of the hosts.


We have developed a gene cloning and expression system in a fast-growing and moderately thermophilic Streptomyces species. Although just a few plasmids and one antibiotic biosynthetic gene cluster from mesophilic Streptomyces were successfully expressed in thermophilic Streptomyces species, we expect that by utilizing thermophilic Streptomyces-specific promoters, more genes and especially antibiotic genes clusters of mesophilic Streptomyces should be heterologously expressed.