A differential effect of E. coli toxin-antitoxin systems on cell death in liquid media and biofilm formation

PLoS One. 2009 Aug 26;4(8):e6785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006785.


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules are gene pairs specifying for a toxin and its antitoxin and are found on the chromosomes of many bacteria including pathogens. Here we report how each of five such TA systems in E. coli affect bacterial cell death differently in liquid media and during biofilm formation. Of all these systems, only the TA system mazEF mediated cell death both in liquid media and during biofilm formation. At the other extreme, as our results have revealed here, the TA system dinJ-YafQ is unique in that it is involved only in the death process during biofilm formation. Cell death governed by mazEF and dinJ-YafQ seems to participate in biofilm formation through a novel mechanism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antitoxins / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / pharmacology*
  • Biofilms*
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial
  • Culture Media
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics


  • Antitoxins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Culture Media