Generation of stable mutants and targeted gene deletion strains inCryptococcus neoformansthrough electroporation

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Abstract

Cryptococcus neoformans is the etiologic agent of cryptococcal meningitis that causes more than half a million deaths worldwide each year. This capsulated basidiomycetous yeast also serves as a model for micropathogenic studies. The ability to make stable mutants, either via ectopic integration or homologous recombination, has been accomplished using biolistic transformation. This technical advance has greatly facilitated the research on the basic biology and pathogenic mechanisms of this pathogen in the past two decades. However, biolistic transformation is costly, and its reproducibility varies widely. Here we found that stable ectopic integration or targeted gene deletion via homologous replacement could be accomplished through electroporative transformation. The stability of the transformants obtained through electroporation and the frequency of homologous replacement is highly dependent on the selective marker. A frequency of homologous recombination among the stable transformants obtained by electroporation is comparable to those obtained by biolistic transformation (∼10%) when dominant drug selection markers are used, which is much higher than what has been previously reported for electroporation when auxotrophic markers were used (0.001% to 0.1%). Furthermore, disruption of the KU80 gene or generation of gene deletion constructs using the split marker strategy, two approaches known to increase homologous replacement among transformants obtained through biolistic transformation, also increase the frequency of homologous replacement among transformants obtained through electroporation. Therefore, electroporation provides a low cost alternative for mutagenesis in Cryptococcus.

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