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J Bacteriol. 2006 Jun;188(11):3826-36.

Ectopic overexpression of wild-type and mutant hipA genes in Escherichia coli: effects on macromolecular synthesis and persister formation.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037, USA.

Abstract

Persistence is an epigenetic trait that allows a small fraction of bacteria, approximately one in a million, to survive prolonged exposure to antibiotics. In Escherichia coli an increased frequency of persisters, called "high persistence," is conferred by mutations in the hipA gene, which encodes the toxin entity of the toxin-antitoxin module hipBA. The high-persistence allele hipA7 was originally identified because of its ability to confer high persistence, but little is known about the physiological role of the wild-type hipA gene. We report here that the expression of wild-type hipA in excess of hipB inhibits protein, RNA, and DNA synthesis in vivo. However, unlike the RelE and MazF toxins, HipA had no effect on protein synthesis in an in vitro translation system. Moreover, the expression of wild-type hipA conferred a transient dormant state (persistence) to a sizable fraction of cells, whereas the rest of the cells remained in a prolonged dormant state that, under appropriate conditions, could be fully reversed by expression of the cognate antitoxin gene hipB. In contrast, expression of the mutant hipA7 gene in excess of hipB did not markedly inhibit protein synthesis as did wild-type hipA and yet still conferred persistence to ca. 10% of cells. We propose that wild-type HipA, upon release from HipB, is able to inhibit macromolecular synthesis and induces a bacteriostatic state that can be reversed by expression of the hipB gene. However, the ability of the wild-type hipA gene to generate a high frequency of persisters, equal to that conferred by the hipA7 allele, may be distinct from the ability to block macromolecular synthesis.

PMID:
16707675
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1482909
Free PMC Article
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