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Plasmid. 2010 Jan;63(1):31-9. doi: 10.1016/j.plasmid.2009.09.005. Epub 2009 Oct 1.

A toxin-antitoxin module as a target for antimicrobial development.

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  • 1Department of Microbial Biotechnology, Centro Nacional de Biotecnolog√≠a, CSIC, E-28049 Madrid, Spain.


The emergence and spread of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics through lateral gene transfer have created the need of novel antimicrobials. Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules, which have been implicated in plasmid maintenance and stress management, are ubiquitous among plasmids from vancomycin or methicillin resistant bacteria. In the Streptococcus pyogenes pSM19035-encoded TA loci, the labile epsilon antitoxin binds to free zeta toxin and neutralizes it. When the zeta toxin is freed from the epsilon antitoxin, it induces a reversible state of growth arrest with a drastic reduction on the rate of replication, transcription and translation. However, upon prolonged zeta toxin action, the cells can no longer be rescued from their stasis state. A compound that disrupts the epsilon.zeta interaction can be considered as an attractive antimicrobial agent. Gene epsilon was fused to luc (Luc-epsilon antitoxin) and zeta to the gfp gene (zeta-GFP). Luc-epsilon or epsilon antitoxin neutralizes the toxic effect of the zeta or zeta-GFP toxin. In the absence of the antitoxin, free zeta or zeta-GFP triggers a reversible loss of cell proliferation, but the zetaK46A-GFP variant fails to block growth. Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) assay was developed for high-throughput screening (HTS). To develop the proper controls, molecular dynamics studies were used to predict that the Asp18 and/or Glu22 residues might be relevant for epsilon.zeta interaction. Luc-epsilon efficiently transfers the excited energy to the fluorescent acceptor molecule (zeta-GFP or zetaK46A-GFP) and rendered high bioluminescence BRET signals. The exchange of Asp18 to Ala from zeta (D18A) affects Luc-epsilon.zetaD18A K46A-GFP interaction. In this study, we validate the hypothesis that it is possible to disrupt a TA module and offer a novel and unexploited targets to fight against antibiotic-resistant strains.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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