Scalable Plasmid Transfer using Engineered P1-based Phagemids
Dramatic improvements to computational, robotic, and biological tools have enabled genetic engineers to conduct increasingly sophisticated experiments. Further development of biological tools offers a route to bypass complex or expensive mechanical operations, thereby reducing the time and cost of highly parallelized experiments. Here, we engineer a system based on bacteriophage P1 to transfer DNA from one E. coli cell to another, bypassing the need for intermediate DNA isolation (e.g., minipreps). To initiate plasmid transfer, we refactored a native phage element into a DNA module capable of heterologously inducing phage lysis. After incorporating known cis-acting elements, we identified a novel cis-acting element that further improves transduction efficiency, exemplifying the ability of synthetic systems to offer insight into native ones. The system transfers DNAs up to 25 kilobases, the maximum assayed size, and operates well at microliter volumes, enabling manipulation of most routinely used DNAs. The system?s large DNA capacity and physical coupling of phage particles to phagemid DNA suggest applicability to biosynthetic pathway evolution, functional proteomics, and ultimately, diverse molecular biology operations including DNA fabrication.