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Minicells or achromosomal cells

Minicells are achromosomal cells that are products of aberrant cell division, and contain RNA and protein, but little or no chromosomal DNA. Minicells are capable of plasmid-directed synthesis. Early descriptions of minicells include those of Adler et al., 'Genetic control of cell division in bacteria' (Science, 1966), and Adler et al. 'Miniature Escherichia coli cells deficient in DNA', (PNAS, 1967). However, discovery of the production of minicells can arguably be traced to the 1930's (Frazer and Curtiss III, 'Production, Properties and Utility of Bacterial Minicells', (Curr. Top. Microbiol. Immunol., 1975).

Prokaryotic (a.k.a. eubacterial) minicells have been used to produce various eubacterial proteins.

Interesting features and Open issues

  • no ability to replicate or to cause infection.
  • carry a normal component of bacterial proteins and membrane components.
  • can be designed to contain any protein and/or plasmid DNA found in the parent strain of E. coli used to produce them
  • how long the minicells are active (at least 3h from Adler (1967))?
  • what is the best way to isolate them ?
  • Would minicells be a good chassis for biological engineering devices ?

Minicells are small (100–400 nm), achromosomal vesicles that are produced by bacteria through ectopic septation during cell division (Khachatourians et al., 1973). The resultant minicells contain all of the molecular components of the parent cell, minus the chromosome. Minicells containing recombinant plasmid DNA molecules can be produced by transforming parental bacterial strains with plasmids of choice prior to minicell formation (Inselburg, 1974; Shepherd et al., 2001).


  • Miniature escherichia coli cells deficient in DNA., H. I. Adler, W. D. Fisher, A. Cohen, and Alice A. Hardigree (1967).
  • Genetic basis of minicell formation in Escherichia coli K-12., E Davie, K Sydnor and L I Rothfield (1984).
  • Minicell-forming mutants of Escherichia coli: production of minicells and anucleate rods., A Jaffé, R D'Ari and S Hiraga (1988)
  • The use of bacterial minicells to transfer plasmid DNA to eukaryotic cells, (Giacalone et al, 2006) (doi:10.1111/j.1462-5822.2006.00737.x)
  • Replication of Colicin E1 Plasmid DNA in Minicells from a Unique Replication Initiation Site, (Inselburg, 1974) (doi/10.1073/pnas.71.6.2256)
  • Cell Growth and Division in Escherichia coli: a Common Genetic Control Involved in Cell Division and Minicell Formation, (Khachatourians et al, 1973)
  • Synthesis of Ribonucleic Acid and Protein in Plasmid-Containing Minicells of Escherichia coli K-12, (Roozen et al, 1971)
  • Proteins synthesized in minicells containing plasmid ColE1 and its mutants., (Inselburg et al, 1978)
  • Protein expression in E. coli minicells by recombinant plasmids, (Meagher et al, 1977)
  • Production, properties and utility of bacterial minicells., (Frazer, Curtiss, 1975)
  • Use of minicells for bacteriophage-directed polypeptide synthesis., (Reeve, 1979)
  • Detecting expression of cloned genes with minicells., ( Huang, P-T et al , 1984) link