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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

High efficiency electrotransformation of Lactococcus lactis spp. lactis cells pretreated with lithium acetate and dithiothreitol

Maria Papagianni*, Nicholaos Avramidis and George Filioussis

Author Affiliations

Department of Hygiene and Technology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 54006, Greece

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BMC Biotechnology 2007, 7:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-7-15

Published: 21 March 2007



A goal for the food industry has always been to improve strains of Lactococcus lactis and stabilize beneficial traits. Genetic engineering is used extensively for manipulating this lactic acid bacterium, while electropolation is the most widely used technique for introducing foreign DNA into cells. The efficiency of electrotransformation depends on the level of electropermealization and pretreatment with chemicals which alter cell wall permeability, resulting in improved transformation efficiencies is rather common practice in bacteria as in yeasts and fungi. In the present study, treatment with lithium acetate (LiAc) and dithiothreitol (DTT) in various combinations was applied to L. lactis spp. lactis cells of the early-log phase prior to electroporation with plasmid pTRKH3 (a 7.8 kb shuttle vector, suitable for cloning into L. lactis). Two strains of L. lactis spp. lactis were used, L. lactis spp. lactis LM0230 and ATCC 11454. To the best of our knowledge these agents have never been used before with L. lactis or other bacteria.


Electrotransformation efficiencies of up to 105 transformants per μg DNA have been reported in the literature for L. lactis spp.lactis LM0230. We report here that treatment with LiAc and DDT before electroporation increased transformation efficiency to 225 ± 52.5 × 107 transformants per μg DNA, while with untreated cells or treated with LiAc alone transformation efficiency approximated 1.2 ± 0.5 × 105 transformants per μg DNA. Results of the same trend were obtained with L. lactis ATCC 11454, although transformation efficiency of this strain was significantly lower. No difference was found in the survival rate of pretreated cells after electroporation. Transformation efficiency was found to vary directly with cell density and that of 1010 cells/ml resulted in the highest efficiencies. Following electrotransformation of pretreated cells with LiAc and DDT, pTRKH3 stability was examined. Both host-vector systems proved to be reproducible and highly efficient.


This investigation sought to improve still further transformation efficiencies and to provide a reliable high efficiency transformation system for L. lactis spp. lactis. The applied methodology, tested in two well-known strains, allows the production of large numbers of transformants and the construction of large recombinant libraries.