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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Jan;35(1):113-22.

Protection of the DNA during the exposure of Escherichia coli cells to a toxic metabolite: the role of the KefB and KefC potassium channels.

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1
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK. gpferg@mit.edu

Abstract

The effect of the toxic metabolite methylglyoxal on the DNA of Escherichia coli cells has been investigated. Exposure of E. coli cells to methylglyoxal reduces the transformability of plasmid DNA and results in the degradation of genomic DNA. The activity of the KefB and KefC potassium channels protects E. coli cells against methylglyoxal and limits the amount of DNA damage. In mutants lacking KefB and KefC, methylglyoxal-induced DNA damage was reduced by incubation with a weak acid that lowers the pHi to the same extent as through KefB and KefC activation. This provides evidence that acidification of the cytoplasm protects E. coli DNA against methylglyoxal. By the analysis of cells lacking UvrA, we demonstrate that this repair protein is required for the degradation of the DNA upon methylglyoxal exposure. However, protection by KefB and KefC occurred independently of UvrA. Although we present evidence that exposure of E. coli cells to methylglyoxal results in DNA degradation, our results suggest this event is not essential for methylglyoxal-induced death. The implications of these findings will be discussed.

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