Development of a system for integrative and stable transformation of the zygomycete Rhizopus oryzae by Agrobacterium-mediated DNA transfer
Site-directed integration of DNA in the fungus Rhizopus has long been problematic because linearized plasmids used for transformation tend to replicate in high-molecular-weight concatenated structures, and rarely integrate into the chromosome. This work examines the methods that might interfere with the multimerization process, select against plasmids that had recircularized, and encourage strand invasion, hopefully leading to plasmid integration. In vitro methods were used to determine if the structure of the double-strand break had any effect on the ability to rejoin plasmid ends. In cell-free extracts, little difference in end-joining activity was found between linearized plasmids with 5′ overhangs, 3′ overhangs, or blunt ends. In addition, dephosphorylation of ends had no effect. Transformation of plasmids prepared in the same ways confirmed that they were easily religated in vivo, with almost all prototrophic isolates retaining autonomously replicated plasmids. It was possible to block religation by modifying the free ends of the linearized plasmids using oligonucleotide adapters which were blocked at the 3′-OH position and contained phosphorothioate nucleotides to make them nuclease-resistant. However, gene replacement, with repair of the auxotrophic mutation in the host chromosome, was the predominant event observed upon the transformation of these plasmids. The highest rates of integration were obtained with a plasmid containing a truncated, non-functional pyrG gene. Autonomous replication of this plasmid did not support prototrophic growth, but homologous recombination into the chromosome restored the function of the endogenous pyrG gene. All of the transformants obtained with this selective construct were found to have integrated the plasmid, with multicopy insertion being common.