MazF induced growth inhibition and persister generation in Escherichia coli [Protein Structure and Folding]

December 27th, 2013 by Tripathi, A., Dewan, P. C., Siddique, S. A., Varadarajan, R.

Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are ubiquitous in nature and present on the chromosomes of both bacteria and archaea. MazEF is a type II TA system present on the chromosome of Escherichia coli and other bacteria. Whether MazEF is involved in programmed cell death or reversible growth inhibition and bacterial persistence is a matter of debate. In the present work, the role of MazF in bacterial physiology was studied by using an inactive, active-site mutant of MazF, E24A to activate WT MazF expression from its own promoter. The ectopic expression of E24A MazF in a strain containing WT mazEF, resulted in reversible growth arrest. Normal growth resumed on inhibiting the expression of E24A MazF. MazF mediated growth arrest resulted in an increase in survival of bacterial cells during antibiotic stress. This was studied by activation of mazEF either by overexpression of an inactive, active-site mutant or pre-exposure to a sub-lethal dose of antibiotic. The MazF mediated persistence phenotype was found to be independent of RecA, and dependent on the presence of the ClpP and Lon proteases. This study confirms the role of MazEF in reversible growth inhibition and persistence.