Open Access Technical Note

A simple method for construction of pir+ Enterobacterial hosts for maintenance of R6K replicon plasmids

Brian H Kvitko1, Steven Bruckbauer1, John Prucha1, Ian McMillan1, Erin J Breland1, Stephanie Lehman1, Katie Mladinich1, Kyoung-Hee Choi2, RoxAnn Karkhoff-Schweizer1 and Herbert P Schweizer1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, IDRC at Foothills Campus, 0922 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA

2 Department of Oral Microbiology, College of Dentistry, Wonkwang University, Iksan 570-749, South Korea

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Citation and License

BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:157  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-157

Published: 20 March 2012



The R6K replicon is one of the best studied bacterial plasmid replicons. Replication of the R6K plasmid and derivatives harboring its γ origin of replication (oriR6Kγ) is dependent on the pir gene-encoded π protein. Originally encoded by R6K, this protein is usually provided in trans in hosts engineered to support replication of plasmids harboring oriR6Kγ. In Escherichia coli this is commonly achieved by chromosomal integration of pir either via lysogenization with a λpir phage or homologous recombination at a pre-determined locus.


Current methods for construction of host strains for oriR6Kγ-containing plasmids involve procedures that do not allow selection for presence of the pir gene and require cumbersome and time-consuming screening steps. In this study, we established a mini-Tn7-based method for rapid and reliable construction of pir+ host strains. Using a curable mini-Tn7 delivery plasmid, pir expressing derivatives of several commonly used E. coli cloning and mobilizer strains were isolated using both the wild-type pir+ gene as well as the copy-up pir-116 allele. In addition, we isolated pir+ and pir-116 expressing derivatives of a clinical isolate of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. In both E. coli and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium, the presence of the pir+ wild-type or pir-116 alleles allowed the replication of oriR6Kγ-containing plasmids.


A mini-Tn7 system was employed for rapid and reliable engineering of E. coli and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium host strains for plasmids containing oriR6Kγ. Since mini-Tn7 elements transpose in most, if not all, Gram negative bacteria, we anticipate that with relatively minor modifications this newly established method will for the first time allow engineering of other bacterial species to enable replication of plasmids with oriR6Kγ.