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1.  The ParE2–PaaA2 toxin–antitoxin complex from Escherichia coli O157 forms a heterodocecamer in solution and in the crystal 
Crystals of the complex of E. coli O157 ParE2 and PaaA2 belong to space group P3121 or P3221 and diffract to 3.8 Å resolution.
Escherichia coli O157 paaR2-paaA2-parE2 constitutes a unique three-component toxin–antitoxin (TA) module encoding a toxin (ParE2) related to the classic parDE family but with an unrelated antitoxin called PaaA2. The complex between PaaA2 and ParE2 was purified and characterized by analytical gel filtration, dynamic light scattering and small-angle X-ray scattering. It consists of a particle with a radius of gyration of 3.95 nm and is likely to form a heterododecamer. Crystals of the ParE2–PaaA2 complex diffract to 3.8 Å resolution and belong to space group P3121 or P3221, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 142.9, c = 87.5 Å. The asymmetric unit is consistent with a particle of around 125 kDa, which is compatible with the solution data. Therefore, the ParE2–PaaA2 complex is the largest toxin–antitoxin complex identified to date and its quaternary arrangement is likely to be of biological significance.
PMCID: PMC3370921  PMID: 22684081
toxin–antitoxin modules; gyrase poisons; intrinsic disorder
2.  Toxin-Antitoxin Systems as Multilevel Interaction Systems 
Toxins  2014;6(1):304-324.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are small genetic modules usually composed of a toxin and an antitoxin counteracting the activity of the toxic protein. These systems are widely spread in bacterial and archaeal genomes. TA systems have been assigned many functions, ranging from persistence to DNA stabilization or protection against mobile genetic elements. They are classified in five types, depending on the nature and mode of action of the antitoxin. In type I and III, antitoxins are RNAs that either inhibit the synthesis of the toxin or sequester it. In type II, IV and V, antitoxins are proteins that either sequester, counterbalance toxin activity or inhibit toxin synthesis. In addition to these interactions between the antitoxin and toxin components (RNA-RNA, protein-protein, RNA-protein), TA systems interact with a variety of cellular factors, e.g., toxins target essential cellular components, antitoxins are degraded by RNAses or ATP-dependent proteases. Hence, TA systems have the capacity to interact with each other at different levels. In this review, we will discuss the different interactions in which TA systems are involved and their implications in TA system functions and evolution.
PMCID: PMC3920263  PMID: 24434905
endoribonuclease; repression; trans-activation; proteolysis
3.  Relaxed Cleavage Specificity within the RelE Toxin Family 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(11):2541-2549.
Bacterial type II toxin-antitoxin systems are widespread in bacteria. Among them, the RelE toxin family is one of the most abundant. The RelEK-12 toxin of Escherichia coli K-12 represents the paradigm for this family and has been extensively studied, both in vivo and in vitro. RelEK-12 is an endoribonuclease that cleaves mRNAs that are translated by the ribosome machinery as these transcripts enter the A site. Earlier in vivo reports showed that RelEK-12 cleaves preferentially in the 5′-end coding region of the transcripts in a codon-independent manner. To investigate whether the molecular activity as well as the cleavage pattern are conserved within the members of this toxin family, RelE-like sequences were selected in Proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Spirochaetes and tested in E. coli. Our results show that these RelE-like sequences are part of toxin-antitoxin gene pairs, and that they inhibit translation in E. coli by cleaving transcripts that are being translated. Primer extension analyses show that these toxins exhibit specific cleavage patterns in vivo, both in terms of frequency and location of cleavage sites. We did not observe codon-dependent cleavage but rather a trend to cleave upstream purines and between the second and third positions of codons, except for the actinobacterial toxin. Our results suggest that RelE-like toxins have evolved to rapidly and efficiently shut down translation in a large spectrum of bacterial species, which correlates with the observation that toxin-antitoxin systems are spreading by horizontal gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC3676057  PMID: 23543711
4.  Characterization of the phd-doc and ccd Toxin-Antitoxin Cassettes from Vibrio Superintegrons 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(10):2270-2283.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems have been reported in the genomes of most bacterial species, and their role when located on the chromosome is still debated. TA systems are particularly abundant in the massive cassette arrays associated with chromosomal superintegrons (SI). Here, we describe the characterization of two superintegron cassettes encoding putative TA systems. The first is the phd-docSI system identified in Vibrio cholerae N16961. We determined its distribution in 36 V. cholerae strains and among five V. metschnikovii strains. We show that this cassette, which is in position 72 of the V. cholerae N16961 cassette array, is functional, carries its own promoter, and is expressed from this location. Interestingly, the phd-docSI system is unable to control its own expression, most likely due to the absence of any DNA-binding domain on the antitoxin. In addition, this SI system is able to cross talk with the canonical P1 phage system. The second cassette that we characterized is the ccdVfi cassette found in the V. fischeri superintegron. We demonstrate that CcdBVfi targets DNA-gyrase, as the canonical CcBF toxin, and that ccdVfi regulates its expression in a fashion similar to the ccdF operon of the conjugative plasmid F. We also establish that this cassette is functional and expressed in its chromosomal context in V. fischeri CIP 103206T. We tested its functional interactions with the ccdABF system and found that CcdAVfi is specific for its associated CcdBVfi and cannot prevent CcdBF toxicity. Based on these results, we discuss the possible biological functions of these TA systems in superintegrons.
PMCID: PMC3650543  PMID: 23475970
5.  The Ribonucleoprotein Csr Network 
Ribonucleoprotein complexes are essential regulatory components in bacteria. In this review, we focus on the carbon storage regulator (Csr) network, which is well conserved in the bacterial world. This regulatory network is composed of the CsrA master regulator, its targets and regulators. CsrA binds to mRNA targets and regulates translation either negatively or positively. Binding to small non-coding RNAs controls activity of this protein. Expression of these regulators is tightly regulated at the level of transcription and stability by various global regulators (RNAses, two-component systems, alarmone). We discuss the implications of these complex regulations in bacterial adaptation.
PMCID: PMC3856055  PMID: 24217225
Csr network; Rsm network; global regulation; RNA-binding protein; sRNAs; post-transcriptional regulation
6.  Complete Genome Sequence of the Escherichia coli PMV-1 Strain, a Model Extraintestinal Pathogenic E. coli Strain Used for Host-Pathogen Interaction Studies 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(5):e00913-13.
Escherichia coli is a highly versatile species, causing diverse intestinal and extraintestinal infections. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of PMV-1, an O18:K1 extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) strain that is used as a model for peritonitis in mice and was useful for deciphering the innate immune response triggered by ExPEC infections.
PMCID: PMC3813190  PMID: 24158560
7.  Characterization of Novel Phages Isolated in Coagulase-Negative Staphylococci Reveals Evolutionary Relationships with Staphylococcus aureus Phages 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(21):5829-5839.
Despite increasing interest in coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS), little information is available about their bacteriophages. We isolated and sequenced three novel temperate Siphoviridae phages (StB12, StB27, and StB20) from the CoNS Staphylococcus hominis and S. capitis species. The genome sizes are around 40 kb, and open reading frames (ORFs) are arranged in functional modules encoding lysogeny, DNA metabolism, morphology, and cell lysis. Bioinformatics analysis allowed us to assign a potential function to half of the predicted proteins. Structural elements were further identified by proteomic analysis of phage particles, and DNA-packaging mechanisms were determined. Interestingly, the three phages show identical integration sites within their host genomes. In addition to this experimental characterization, we propose a novel classification based on the analysis of 85 phage and prophage genomes, including 15 originating from CoNS. Our analysis established 9 distinct clusters and revealed close relationships between S. aureus and CoNS phages. Genes involved in DNA metabolism and lysis and potentially in phage-host interaction appear to be widespread, while structural genes tend to be cluster specific. Our findings support the notion of a possible reciprocal exchange of genes between phages originating from S. aureus and CoNS, which may be of crucial importance for pathogenesis in staphylococci.
PMCID: PMC3486100  PMID: 22923589
8.  The Staphylococci Phages Family: An Overview 
Viruses  2012;4(12):3316-3335.
Due to their crucial role in pathogenesis and virulence, phages of Staphylococcus aureus have been extensively studied. Most of them encode and disseminate potent staphylococcal virulence factors. In addition, their movements contribute to the extraordinary versatility and adaptability of this prominent pathogen by improving genome plasticity. In addition to S. aureus, phages from coagulase-negative Staphylococci (CoNS) are gaining increasing interest. Some of these species, such as S. epidermidis, cause nosocomial infections and are therefore problematic for public health. This review provides an overview of the staphylococcal phages family extended to CoNS phages. At the morphological level, all these phages characterized so far belong to the Caudovirales order and are mainly temperate Siphoviridae. At the molecular level, comparative genomics revealed an extensive mosaicism, with genes organized into functional modules that are frequently exchanged between phages. Evolutionary relationships within this family, as well as with other families, have been highlighted. All these aspects are of crucial importance for our understanding of evolution and emergence of pathogens among bacterial species such as Staphylococci.
PMCID: PMC3528268  PMID: 23342361
bacteriophages; Staphylococcus; horizontal transfer; virulence
9.  Bacterial toxin-antitoxin systems 
Mobile Genetic Elements  2011;1(4):283-290.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are composed of two elements: a toxic protein and an antitoxin which is either an RNA (type I and III) or a protein (type II). Type II systems are abundant in bacterial genomes in which they move via horizontal gene transfer. They are generally composed of two genes organized in an operon, encoding a toxin and a labile antitoxin. When carried by mobile genetic elements, these small modules contribute to their stability by a phenomenon denoted as addiction. Recently, we developed a bioinformatics procedure that, along with experimental validation, allowed the identification of nine novel toxin super-families. Here, considering that some toxin super-families exhibit dramatic sequence diversity but similar structure, bioinformatics tools were used to predict tertiary structures of novel toxins. Seven of the nine novel super-families did not show any structural homology with known toxins, indicating that combination of sequence similarity and three-dimensional structure prediction allows a consistent classification. Interestingly, the novel super-families are translation inhibitors similar to the majority of known toxins indicating that this activity might have been selected rather than more detrimental traits such as DNA-gyrase inhibitors, which are very toxic for cells.
PMCID: PMC3337138  PMID: 22545240
DNA-gyrase; endoribonuclease; Gin; horizontal gene transfer; RelE/ParE; selfish genes
10.  Evidence for an evolutionary antagonism between Mrr and Type III modification systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(14):5991-6001.
The Mrr protein of Escherichia coli is a laterally acquired Type IV restriction endonuclease with specificity for methylated DNA. While Mrr nuclease activity can be elicited by high-pressure stress in E. coli MG1655, its (over)expression per se does not confer any obvious toxicity. In this study, however, we discovered that Mrr of E. coli MG1655 causes distinct genotoxicity when expressed in Salmonella typhimurium LT2. Genetic screening enabled us to contribute this toxicity entirely to the presence of the endogenous Type III restriction modification system (StyLTI) of S. typhimurium LT2. The StyLTI system consists of the Mod DNA methyltransferase and the Res restriction endonuclease, and we revealed that expression of the LT2 mod gene was sufficient to trigger Mrr activity in E. coli MG1655. Moreover, we could demonstrate that horizontal acquisition of the MG1655 mrr locus can drive the loss of endogenous Mod functionality present in S. typhimurium LT2 and E. coli ED1a, and observed a strong anti-correlation between close homologues of MG1655 mrr and LT2 mod in the genome database. This apparent evolutionary antagonism is further discussed in the light of a possible role for Mrr as defense mechanism against the establishment of epigenetic regulation by foreign DNA methyltransferases.
PMCID: PMC3152355  PMID: 21504983
11.  Diversity of bacterial type II toxin–antitoxin systems: a comprehensive search and functional analysis of novel families 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(13):5513-5525.
Type II toxin–antitoxin (TA) systems are generally composed of two genes organized in an operon, encoding a labile antitoxin and a stable toxin. They were first discovered on plasmids where they contribute to plasmid stability by a phenomenon denoted as ‘addiction’, and subsequently in bacterial chromosomes. To discover novel families of antitoxins and toxins, we developed a bioinformatics approach based on the ‘guilt by association’ principle. Extensive experimental validation in Escherichia coli of predicted antitoxins and toxins increased significantly the number of validated systems and defined novel toxin and antitoxin families. Our data suggest that toxin families as well as antitoxin families originate from distinct ancestors that were assembled multiple times during evolution. Toxin and antitoxin families found on plasmids tend to be promiscuous and widespread, indicating that TA systems move through horizontal gene transfer. We propose that due to their addictive properties, TA systems are likely to be maintained in chromosomes even though they do not necessarily confer an advantage to their bacterial hosts. Therefore, addiction might play a major role in the evolutionary success of TA systems both on mobile genetic elements and in bacterial chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3141249  PMID: 21422074
12.  Conditional Essentiality of the csrA Gene in Escherichia coli▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;191(5):1722-1724.
CsrA is a global posttranscriptional regulator of numerous physiological processes, such as glycogenesis and glycolysis. Here, we show that the csrA gene of Escherichia coli is essential for growth on LB and on synthetic medium containing glycolytic carbon sources. However, csrA is not necessary for growth on synthetic medium containing pyruvate, showing that the Krebs cycle is functional in the csrA::cat deletion mutant. Deletion of the glgCAP operon in the csrA::cat mutant restored the ability to grow on LB and on synthetic medium containing glycolytic carbon sources, showing that growth inhibition is due to an excess of glycogen synthesis.
PMCID: PMC2648183  PMID: 19103924
13.  Purification and crystallization of Vibrio fischeri CcdB and its complexes with fragments of gyrase and CcdA 
A CcdB homologue from V. fischeri was overexpressed in E. coli and purified. The free protein was crystallized, as were its complexes with fragments of E. coli and V. fischeri gyrase and with the F-plasmid CcdA C-terminal domain.
The ccd toxin–antitoxin module from the Escherichia coli F plasmid has a homologue on the Vibrio fischeri integron. The homologue of the toxin (CcdBVfi) was crystallized in two different crystal forms. The first form belongs to space group I23 or I213, with unit-cell parameter a = 84.5 Å, and diffracts to 1.5 Å resolution. The second crystal form belongs to space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 58.5, b = 43.6, c = 37.5 Å, β = 110.0°, and diffracts to 1.7 Å resolution. The complex of CcdBVfi with the GyrA14Vfi fragment of V. fischeri gyrase crystallizes in space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 53.5, b = 94.6, c = 58.1 Å, and diffracts to 2.2 Å resolution. The corresponding mixed complex with E. coli GyrA14Ec crystallizes in space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 130.1, b = 90.8, c = 58.1 Å, β = 102.6°, and diffracts to 1.95 Å. Finally, a complex between CcdBVfi and part of the F-plasmid antitoxin CcdAF crystallizes in space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 46.9, b = 62.6, c = 82.0 Å, and diffracts to 1.9 Å resolution.
PMCID: PMC2330220  PMID: 17401216
toxin–antitoxin systems; CcdB; Vibrio fischeri; CcdA; gyrase
14.  Bacterial Toxin–Antitoxin Systems: More Than Selfish Entities? 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000437.
Bacterial toxin–antitoxin (TA) systems are diverse and widespread in the prokaryotic kingdom. They are composed of closely linked genes encoding a stable toxin that can harm the host cell and its cognate labile antitoxin, which protects the host from the toxin's deleterious effect. TA systems are thought to invade bacterial genomes through horizontal gene transfer. Some TA systems might behave as selfish elements and favour their own maintenance at the expense of their host. As a consequence, they may contribute to the maintenance of plasmids or genomic islands, such as super-integrons, by post-segregational killing of the cell that loses these genes and so suffers the stable toxin's destructive effect. The function of the chromosomally encoded TA systems is less clear and still open to debate. This Review discusses current hypotheses regarding the biological roles of these evolutionarily successful small operons. We consider the various selective forces that could drive the maintenance of TA systems in bacterial genomes.
PMCID: PMC2654758  PMID: 19325885
15.  Chromosomal Toxin-Antitoxin Systems May Act as Antiaddiction Modules▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(13):4603-4609.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are widespread among bacterial chromosomes and mobile genetic elements. Although in plasmids TA systems have a clear role in their vertical inheritance by selectively killing plasmid-free daughter cells (postsegregational killing or addiction phenomenon), the physiological role of chromosomally encoded ones remains under debate. The assumption that chromosomally encoded TA systems are part of stress response networks and/or programmed cell death machinery has been called into question recently by the observation that none of the five canonical chromosomally encoded TA systems in the Escherichia coli chromosome seem to confer any selective advantage under stressful conditions (V. Tsilibaris, G. Maenhaut-Michel, N. Mine, and L. Van Melderen, J. Bacteriol. 189:6101-6108, 2007). Their prevalence in bacterial chromosomes indicates that they might have been acquired through horizontal gene transfer. Once integrated in chromosomes, they might in turn interfere with their homologues encoded by mobile genetic elements. In this work, we show that the chromosomally encoded Erwinia chrysanthemi ccd (control of cell death) (ccdEch) system indeed protects the cell against postsegregational killing mediated by its F-plasmid ccd (ccdF) homologue. Moreover, competition experiments have shown that this system confers a fitness advantage under postsegregational conditions mediated by the ccdF system. We propose that ccdEch acts as an antiaddiction module and, more generally, that the integration of TA systems in bacterial chromosomes could drive the evolution of plasmid-encoded ones and select toxins that are no longer recognized by the antiaddiction module.
PMCID: PMC2446810  PMID: 18441063
16.  What Is the Benefit to Escherichia coli of Having Multiple Toxin-Antitoxin Systems in Its Genome?▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(17):6101-6108.
The Escherichia coli K-12 chromosome encodes at least five proteic toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems. The mazEF and relBE systems have been extensively characterized and were proposed to be general stress response modules. On one hand, mazEF was proposed to act as a programmed cell death system that is triggered by a variety of stresses. On the other hand, relBE and mazEF were proposed to serve as growth modulators that induce a dormancy state during amino acid starvation. These conflicting hypotheses led us to test a possible synergetic effect of the five characterized E. coli TA systems on stress response. We compared the behavior of a wild-type strain and its derivative devoid of the five TA systems under various stress conditions. We were unable to detect TA-dependent programmed cell death under any of these conditions, even under conditions previously reported to induce it. Thus, our results rule out the programmed-cell-death hypothesis. Moreover, the presence of the five TA systems advantaged neither recovery from the different stresses nor cell growth under nutrient-limited conditions in competition experiments. This casts a doubt on whether TA systems significantly influence bacterial fitness and competitiveness during non-steady-state growth conditions.
PMCID: PMC1951899  PMID: 17513477
17.  Functional Interactions between Coexisting Toxin-Antitoxin Systems of the ccd Family in Escherichia coli O157:H7▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(7):2712-2719.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are widely represented on mobile genetic elements as well as in bacterial chromosomes. TA systems encode a toxin and an antitoxin neutralizing it. We have characterized a homolog of the ccd TA system of the F plasmid (ccdF) located in the chromosomal backbone of the pathogenic O157:H7 Escherichia coli strain (ccdO157). The ccdF and the ccdO157 systems coexist in O157:H7 isolates, as these pathogenic strains contain an F-related virulence plasmid carrying the ccdF system. We have shown that the chromosomal ccdO157 system encodes functional toxin and antitoxin proteins that share properties with their plasmidic homologs: the CcdBO157 toxin targets the DNA gyrase, and the CcdAO157 antitoxin is degraded by the Lon protease. The ccdO157 chromosomal system is expressed in its natural context, although promoter activity analyses revealed that its expression is weaker than that of ccdF. ccdO157 is unable to mediate postsegregational killing when cloned in an unstable plasmid, supporting the idea that chromosomal TA systems play a role(s) other than stabilization in bacterial physiology. Our cross-interaction experiments revealed that the chromosomal toxin is neutralized by the plasmidic antitoxin while the plasmidic toxin is not neutralized by the chromosomal antitoxin, whether expressed ectopically or from its natural context. Moreover, the ccdF system is able to mediate postsegregational killing in an E. coli strain harboring the ccdO157 system in its chromosome. This shows that the plasmidic ccdF system is functional in the presence of its chromosomal counterpart.
PMCID: PMC1855815  PMID: 17259320
18.  Differences between Belgian and Brazilian Group A Streptococcus Epidemiologic Landscape 
PLoS ONE  2006;1(1):e10.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) clinical and molecular epidemiology varies with location and time. These differences are not or are poorly understood.
Methods and Findings
We prospectively studied the epidemiology of GAS infections among children in outpatient hospital clinics in Brussels (Belgium) and Brasília (Brazil). Clinical questionnaires were filled out and microbiological sampling was performed. GAS isolates were emm-typed according to the Center for Disease Control protocol. emm pattern was predicted for each isolate. 334 GAS isolates were recovered from 706 children. Skin infections were frequent in Brasília (48% of the GAS infections), whereas pharyngitis were predominant (88%) in Brussels. The mean age of children with GAS pharyngitis in Brussels was lower than in Brasília (65/92 months, p<0.001). emm-typing revealed striking differences between Brazilian and Belgian GAS isolates. While 20 distinct emm-types were identified among 200 Belgian isolates, 48 were found among 128 Brazilian isolates. Belgian isolates belong mainly to emm pattern A–C (55%) and E (42.5%) while emm pattern E (51.5%) and D (36%) were predominant in Brasília. In Brasília, emm pattern D isolates were recovered from 18.5% of the pharyngitis, although this emm pattern is supposed to have a skin tropism. By contrast, A–C pattern isolates were unfrequently recovered in a region where rheumatic fever is still highly prevalent.
Epidemiologic features of GAS from a pediatric population were very different in an industrialised country and a low incomes region, not only in term of clinical presentation, but also in terms of genetic diversity and distribution of emm patterns. These differences should be taken into account for designing treatment guidelines and vaccine strategies.
PMCID: PMC1762354  PMID: 17183632
19.  The Highly Conserved TldD and TldE Proteins of Escherichia coli Are Involved in Microcin B17 Processing and in CcdA Degradation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(12):3224-3231.
Microcin B17 (MccB17) is a peptide antibiotic produced by Escherichia coli strains carrying the pMccB17 plasmid. MccB17 is synthesized as a precursor containing an amino-terminal leader peptide that is cleaved during maturation. Maturation requires the product of the chromosomal tldE (pmbA) gene. Mature microcin is exported across the cytoplasmic membrane by a dedicated ABC transporter. In sensitive cells, MccB17 targets the essential topoisomerase II DNA gyrase. Independently, tldE as well as tldD mutants were isolated as being resistant to CcdB, another natural poison of gyrase encoded by the ccd poison-antidote system of plasmid F. This led to the idea that TldD and TldE could regulate gyrase function. We present in vivo evidence supporting the hypothesis that TldD and TldE have proteolytic activity. We show that in bacterial mutants devoid of either TldD or TldE activity, the MccB17 precursor accumulates and is not exported. Similarly, in the ccd system, we found that TldD and TldE are involved in CcdA and CcdA41 antidote degradation rather than being involved in the CcdB resistance mechanism. Interestingly, sequence database comparisons revealed that these two proteins have homologues in eubacteria and archaebacteria, suggesting a broader physiological role.
PMCID: PMC135094  PMID: 12029038

Results 1-19 (19)