Stable Recombinant-Gene Expression from a Ligilactobacillus Live Bacterial Vector via Chromosomal Integration

Ben Vezina, Theo Allnutt, Anthony L. Keyburn, Ben Wade, Thi Thu Hao Van, Priscilla Johanesen, Dena Lyras, Robert J. Moore

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Disease control in animal production systems requires constant vigilance. Historically, the application of in-feed antibiotics to control bacteria and improve performance has been a much-used approach to maintain animal health and welfare. However, the widespread use of in-feed antibiotics is thought to increase the risk of antibiotic resistance developing. Alternative methods to control disease and maintain productivity need to be developed. Live vaccination is useful in preventing colonization of mucosa-dwelling pathogens by inducing a mucosal immune response. Native poultry isolate Ligilactobacillus agilis La3 (previously Lactobacillus agilis) has been identified as a candidate for use as a live vector to deliver therapeutic proteins such as bacteriocins, phage endolysins, or vaccine antigens to the gastrointestinal tract of chickens. In this study, the complete genome sequence of L. agilis La3 was determined and transcriptome analysis was undertaken to identify highly expressed genes. Predicted promoter regions and ribosomal binding sites from constitutively expressed genes were used to construct recombinant protein expression cassettes. A series of double-crossover shuttle plasmids were constructed to facilitate rapid selectable integration of expression cassettes into the Lagilis La3 chromosome via homologous recombination. Inserts showed 100% stable integration over 100 generations without selection. A positive relationship was found between protein expression levels and the predicted strength of the promoters. Using this system, stable chromosomal expression of a Clostridium perfringens antigen, rNetB, was demonstrated without selection. Finally, two recombinant strains, Lagilis La3::P eft -rnetB and Lagilis La3::P cwah -rnetB, were constructed and characterized, and they showed potential for future application as live vaccines in chickens.IMPORTANCE Therapeutic proteins such as antigens can be used to prevent infectious diseases in poultry. However, traditional vaccine delivery by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection generally has not proven effective for mucosa-dwelling microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract. Utilizing live bacteria to deliver vaccine antigens directly to the gut immune system can overcome some of the limitations of conventional vaccination. In this work, Ligilactobacillus agilis La3, an especially effective gut colonizer, has been analyzed and engineered with modular and stable expression systems to produce recombinant proteins. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the system, expression of a vaccine antigen from poultry pathogen Clostridium perfringens was monitored over 100 generations without selection and found to be completely stable. This study demonstrates the development of genetic tools and novel constitutive expression systems and further development of L. agilis La3 as a live delivery vehicle for recombinant proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00392-21
Number of pages17
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • chromosomal integration
  • Ligilactobacillus agilis
  • live bacterial vector
  • stable expression
  • transcriptomics

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