Formaldehyde Stress Responses in Bacterial Pathogens

Front Microbiol. 2016 Mar 3;7:257. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00257. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Formaldehyde is the simplest of all aldehydes and is highly cytotoxic. Its use and associated dangers from environmental exposure have been well documented. Detoxification systems for formaldehyde are found throughout the biological world and they are especially important in methylotrophic bacteria, which generate this compound as part of their metabolism of methanol. Formaldehyde metabolizing systems can be divided into those dependent upon pterin cofactors, sugar phosphates and those dependent upon glutathione. The more prevalent thiol-dependent formaldehyde detoxification system is found in many bacterial pathogens, almost all of which do not metabolize methane or methanol. This review describes the endogenous and exogenous sources of formaldehyde, its toxic effects and mechanisms of detoxification. The methods of formaldehyde sensing are also described with a focus on the formaldehyde responsive transcription factors HxlR, FrmR, and NmlR. Finally, the physiological relevance of detoxification systems for formaldehyde in bacterial pathogens is discussed.

Keywords: Haemophilus; Neisseria; formaldehyde; glutathione; host–pathogen interactions.

Publication types

  • Review