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J Bacteriol. 2006 May;188(10):3494-7.

Increased persistence in Escherichia coli caused by controlled expression of toxins or other unrelated proteins.

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Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Illinois, Chicago, 60607, USA.


Bacterial populations contain persisters, cells which survive exposure to bactericidal antibiotics and other lethal factors. Persisters do not have a genetic resistance mechanism, and their means to tolerate killing remain unknown. In exponentially growing populations of Escherichia coli the frequency of persister formation usually is 10(-7) to 10(-5). It has been shown that cells overexpressing either of the toxic proteins HipA and RelE, both members of the bacterial toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules, have the ability to form more persisters, suggesting a specific role for these toxins in the mechanism of persistence. However, here we show that cells expressing proteins that are unrelated to TA modules but which become toxic when ectopically expressed, chaperone DnaJ and protein PmrC of Salmonella enterica, also form 100- to 1,000-fold more persisters. Thus, persistence is linked not only to toxicity caused by expression of HipA or dedicated toxins but also to expression of other unrelated proteins.

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