Cytochrome oxidase deficiency protects Escherichia coli from cell death but not from filamentation due to thymine deficiency or DNA polymerase inactivation

J Bacteriol. 2005 Apr;187(8):2827-35. doi: 10.1128/JB.187.8.2827-2835.2005.


Temperature-sensitive DNA polymerase mutants (dnaE) are protected from cell death on incubation at nonpermissive temperature by mutation in the cydA gene controlling cytochrome bd oxidase. Protection is observed in complex (Luria-Bertani [LB]) medium but not on minimal medium. The cydA mutation protects a thymine-deficient strain from death in the absence of thymine on LB but not on minimal medium. Both dnaE and Deltathy mutants filament under nonpermissive conditions. Filamentation per se is not the cause of cell death, because the dnaE cydA double mutant forms long filaments after 24 h of incubation in LB medium at nonpermissive temperature. These filaments have multiply dispersed nucleoids and produce colonies on return to permissive conditions. The protective effect of a deficiency of cydA at high temperature is itself suppressed by overexpression of cytochrome bo3, indicating that the phenomenon is related to energy metabolism rather than to a specific effect of the cydA protein. We propose that filamentation and cell death resulting from thymine deprivation or slowing of DNA synthesis are not sequential events but occur in response to the same or a similar signal which is modulated in complex medium by cytochrome bd oxidase. The events which follow inhibition of replication fork progression due to either polymerase inactivation, thymine deprivation, or hydroxyurea inhibition differ in detail from those following actual DNA damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Cytochrome b Group
  • Cytochrome-c Oxidase Deficiency / pathology*
  • Cytochrome-c Oxidase Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Cytochromes / metabolism
  • DNA Polymerase III / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Electron Transport Chain Complex Proteins / genetics
  • Electron Transport Chain Complex Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / cytology*
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Suppression, Genetic
  • Temperature
  • Thymine / metabolism*


  • Cytochrome b Group
  • Cytochromes
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Electron Transport Chain Complex Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Oxidoreductases
  • cytochrome bd terminal oxidase complex, E coli
  • DNA polymerase III, alpha subunit
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • Thymine