The genomic pks island codes for the biosynthetic machinery that produces colibactin, a peptide-polyketide metabolite. Colibactin is a genotoxin that contributes to the virulence of extra-intestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli and promotes colorectal cancer. In this work, we examined whether the pks-encoded clbS gene of unknown function could participate in the self-protection of E. coli-producing colibactin. A clbS mutant was not impaired in the ability to inflict DNA damage in HeLa cells, but the bacteria activated the SOS response and ceased to replicate. This autotoxicity phenotype was markedly enhanced in a clbS uvrB double mutant inactivated for DNA repair by nucleotide excision but was suppressed in a clbS clbA double mutant unable to produce colibactin. In addition, ectopic expression of clbS protected infected HeLa cells from colibactin. Thus, ClbS is a resistance protein blocking the genotoxicity of colibactin both in the procaryotic and the eucaryotic cells.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.