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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 11, 1996; 93(12): 6059–6063.

An Escherichia coli chromosomal "addiction module" regulated by guanosine [corrected] 3',5'-bispyrophosphate: a model for programmed bacterial cell death.


"Addiction modules" consist of two genes. In most of them the product of one is long lived and toxic while the product of the second is short lived and antagonizes the toxic effect; so far, they have been described mainly in a number of prokaryotic extrachromosomal elements responsible for the postsegregational killing effect. Here we show that the chromosomal genes mazE and mazF, located in the Escherichia coli rel operon, have all of the properties required for an addiction module. Furthermore, the expression of mazEF is regulated by the cellular level of guanosine [corrected] 3',5'-bispyrophosphate, the product of the RelA protein under amino acid starvation. These properties suggest that the mazEF system may be responsible for programmed cell death in E. coli and thus may have a role in the physiology of starvation.

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