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Genes Cells. 2000 Mar;5(3):155-67.

Bacterial cell death induced by human pro-apoptotic Bax is blocked by an RNase E mutant that functions in an anti-oxidant pathway.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Institute of Gerontology, Nippon Medical School, 1-396, Kosugi-cho, Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki-city, Kanagawa-ken 211-8533, Japan.



Bax is a member of the Bcl-2 family and induces apoptosis of mammalian cells. We have shown that a trace amount of human Bax induces the cell death of Escherichia coli, accompanied by damage to DNA, and that the region of Bax which is lethal to E. coli is also responsible for apoptosis-inducing activity in the mammalian cells.


We isolated a Bax-resistant mutant from E. coli cells that survive in the presence of paraquat, a generator of superoxide, by screening a library constructed from the random insertion of a transposon. Psb1 (paraquat-resistant, suppressor of Bax-1) mutant had a Tn 10 transposon inserted in the rne gene of E. coli, splitting the RNase E gene (rne) into N- and C-terminal halves. The introduction of the truncated 5' end of rne specifically enhanced resistance to paraquat, prevented cell death induced by Bax and decreased the intracellular H2O2 concentration. The region responsible for the paraquat- and Bax-resistance was not the catalytic site for the endoribonuclease activity of RNase E.


The N-terminal region of the RNase E protein inhibits bacterial death induced by human Bax as well as paraquat through a unique mechanism that is distinct from RNA digestion. This study implies that the protection of bacterial death induced by Bax is associated with an anti-oxidant pathway and that a mutant RNase E has a novel function as an anti-oxidant.

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