ColE1-like plasmids constitute the most popular vectors for recombinant protein expression. ColE1 plasmid replication is tightly controlled by an antisense RNA mechanism that is highly dynamic, tuning plasmid metabolic burden to the physiological state of the host. Plasmid homeostasis is upset upon induction of recombinant protein expression because of non-physiological levels of expression and because of the frequently biased amino acid composition of recombinant proteins. Disregulation of plasmid replication is the main cause of collapse of plasmid-based expression systems because of a simultaneous increase in the metabolic burden (due to increased average copy number) and in the probability of generation of plasmid-free cells (due to increased copy number variation). Interference between regulatory elements of co-resident plasmids causes comparable effects on plasmid stability (plasmid incompatibility). Modulating plasmid copy number for recombinant gene expression aims at achieving a high gene dosage while preserving the stability of the expression system. Here I present strategies targeting plasmid replication for optimizing recombinant gene expression. Specifically, I review approaches aimed at modulating the antisense regulatory system (as well as their implications for plasmid incompatibility) and innovative strategies involving modulation of host factors, of R-loop formation, and of the timing of recombinant gene expression.
Keywords: Mutagenesis, fermentation, R-loops, RNA degradation, supercoiling, D-loops, plasmid instability, ColE1, dimer catastrophe, plasmid incompatibility
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