Distribution Dynamics of Recombinant Lactobacillus in the Gastrointestinal Tract of Neonatal Rats

Sujin Bao, Libin Zhu, Qiang Zhuang, Lucia Wang, Pin Xian Xu, Keiji Itoh, Ian R. Holzman, Jing Lin

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7 Scopus citations


One approach to deliver therapeutic agents, especially proteins, to the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract is to use commensal bacteria as a carrier. Genus Lactobacillus is an attractive candidate for use in this approach. However, a system for expressing exogenous proteins at a high level has been lacking in Lactobacillus. Moreover, it will be necessary to introduce the recombinant Lactobacillus into the GI tract, ideally by oral administration. Whether orally administered Lactobacillus can reach and reside in the GI tract has not been explored in neonates. In this study, we have examined these issues in neonatal rats. To achieve a high level of protein expression in Lactobacillus, we tested the impact of three promoters and two backbones on protein expression levels using mRFP1, a red fluorescent protein, as a reporter. We found that a combination of an L-lactate dehydrogenase (ldhL) promoter of Lactobacillus sakei with a backbone from pLEM415 yielded the highest level of reporter expression. When this construct was used to transform Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Lactobacillus acidophilus, high levels of mRFP1 were detected in all these species and colonies of transformed Lactobacillus appeared pink under visible light. To test whether orally administered Lactobacillus can be retained in the GI tract of neonates, we fed the recombinant Lactobacillus casei to neonatal rats. We found that about 3% of the bacteria were retained in the GI tract of the rats at 24 h after oral feeding with more recombinant Lactobacillus in the stomach and small intestine than in the cecum and colon. No mortality was observed throughout this study with Lactobacillus. In contrast, all neonatal rats died within 24 hours after fed with transformed E. coli. Taken together, our results indicate that Lactobacillus has the potential to be used as a vehicle for the delivery of therapeutic agents to neonates.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere60007
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 27 Mar 2013


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