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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1999 Jul 15;176(2):269-77.

Proteic toxin-antitoxin, bacterial plasmid addiction systems and their evolution with special reference to the pas system of pTF-FC2.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland, South Africa.


Genes encoding toxin-antitoxin proteins are frequently found on plasmids where they serve to stabilize the plasmid within a bacterial population. The toxin-antitoxin proteins do not increase the likelihood of a progeny cell receiving a plasmid but rather function as post-segregational killing mechanisms which decrease the proportion of cells that survive after losing the plasmid. These toxin-antitoxin couples therefore act as plasmid addiction systems. Several new proteic toxin-antitoxin systems have been identified and these systems appear to be ubiquitous on the chromosomes of bacteria and archaea. When placed on plasmids, these chromosomal systems also have the ability to stabilize plasmids and in at least one case, chromosomal- and plasmid-based toxin-antitoxin systems have been shown to interact. Recent findings regarding toxin-antitoxin systems and questions that have arisen as a result of these findings are reviewed.

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