Signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) provided the first widely applicable high-throughput method for detecting conditionally essential genes in bacteria by using negative selection to screen large pools of transposon (Tn) mutants. STM requires no prior knowledge of the bacteriums genome sequence, and has been used to study a large number of Gram-positive and Gram-negative species, greatly expanding the repertoires of known virulence factors for these organisms. Originally, hybridization of radiolabelled probes to colony or dot blots was used to detect differences in populations of tagged mutants before and after growth under a selective condition. Modifications of the tag detection method involving polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and visualisation by gel electrophoresis have been developed and can be automated through the use of robotics. Genetic footprinting is another negative selection technique that uses PCR amplification to detect loss of mutants from a pool. Unlike PCR-STM, this technique allows direct amplification of Tn-flanking sequences. However, it requires the bacteriums whole genome sequence in order to design specific primers for every gene of interest. More recently, a number of techniques have been described that combine the negative-selection principle of STM and genetic footprinting with the genome-wide screening power of DNA microarrays. These techniques, although also requiring whole genome sequences, use either a form of linker-mediated or semi-random PCR to amplify and label Tn-flanking regions for hybridization to microarrays. The superior sensitivity microarray detection allows greater numbers of mutants to be screened per pool, as well as determination of the coverage/distribution of insertions in the library prior to screening, two significant advantages over STM.
Keywords: Transposon, essential gene, signature-tagged, genetic footprinting, microarray
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