Biological containment of genetically modified Lactococcus lactis for intestinal delivery of human interleukin 10


Genetically modified Lactococcus lactis secreting interleukin 10 provides a therapeutic approach for inflammatory bowel disease. However, the release of such genetically modified organisms through clinical use raises safety concerns. In an effort to address this problem, we replaced the thymidylate synthase gene thyA of L. lactis with a synthetic human IL10 gene. This thyAhIL10+ L. lactis strain produced human IL-10 (hIL-10), and when deprived of thymidine or thymine, its viability dropped by several orders of magnitude, essentially preventing its accumulation in the environment. The biological containment system and the bacterium's capacity to secrete hIL-10 were validated in vivo in pigs. Our approach is a promising one for transgene containment because, in the unlikely event that the engineered L. lactis strain acquired an intact thyA gene from a donor such as L. lactis subsp. cremoris, the transgene would be eliminated from the genome.

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Figure 1: Exchange between thyA and hIL10 genes.
Figure 2: hIL-10 production by Thy11–16.
Figure 3: Growth and survival of Thy12 and MG1363.

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The authors thank Inge Bruggeman, Hilde Devlies Koen Van Laer and Elena Yancheva for expert technical assistance, Karen Madsen, Claude Cuvelier and Frans Van Roy for critically reviewing the manuscript, and Jan Kok and Emmanuelle Maguin for providing genetic tools. This study was financed by the Vlaams Interuniversitair instituut voor Biotechnologie, Ghent University (GOA project nos. 12050700 and 12051501) and the commission of the European Communities, specific research, technological development and training activities program “Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources,” QLK1-2000-00146 “Probiotic strains with designed health properties.”

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Correspondence to Lothar Steidler.

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Steidler, L., Neirynck, S., Huyghebaert, N. et al. Biological containment of genetically modified Lactococcus lactis for intestinal delivery of human interleukin 10. Nat Biotechnol 21, 785–789 (2003).

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