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J Bacteriol. 2009 Dec;191(24):7456-65. doi: 10.1128/JB.00963-09. Epub 2009 Oct 16.

An SOS-regulated type 2 toxin-antitoxin system.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030-3411, USA.


The Escherichia coli chromosome encodes seven demonstrated type 2 toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems: cassettes of two or three cotranscribed genes, one encoding a stable toxin protein that can cause cell stasis or death, another encoding a labile antitoxin protein, and sometimes a third regulatory protein. We demonstrate that the yafNO genes constitute an additional chromosomal type 2 TA system that is upregulated during the SOS DNA damage response. The yafNOP genes are part of the dinB operon, of which dinB underlies stress-induced mutagenesis mechanisms. yafN was identified as a putative antitoxin by homology to known antitoxins, implicating yafO (and/or yafP) as a putative toxin. Using phage-mediated cotransduction assays for linkage disruption, we show first that yafN is an essential gene and second that it is essential only when yafO is present. Third, yafP is not a necessary part of either the toxin or the antitoxin. Fourth, although DinB is required, the yafNOP genes are not required for stress-induced mutagenesis in the Escherichia coli Lac assay. These results imply that yafN encodes an antitoxin that protects cells against a yafO-encoded toxin and show a protein-based TA system upregulated by the SOS response.

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