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PLoS Biol. 2008 Dec 16;6(12):e319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060319.

The communication factor EDF and the toxin-antitoxin module mazEF determine the mode of action of antibiotics.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.


It was recently reported that the production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) is a common mechanism of cell death induced by bactericidal antibiotics. Here we show that triggering the Escherichia coli chromosomal toxin-antitoxin system mazEF is an additional determinant in the mode of action of some antibiotics. We treated E. coli cultures by antibiotics belonging to one of two groups: (i) Inhibitors of transcription and/or translation, and (ii) DNA damaging. We found that antibiotics of both groups caused: (i) mazEF-mediated cell death, and (ii) the production of ROS through MazF action. However, only antibiotics of the first group caused mazEF-mediated cell death that is ROS-dependent, whereas those of the second group caused mazEF-mediated cell death by an ROS-independent pathway. Furthermore, our results showed that the mode of action of antibiotics was determined by the ability of E. coli cells to communicate through the signaling molecule Extracellular Death Factor (EDF) participating in mazEF induction.

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