Antimicrobial peptides trigger a division block in Escherichia coli through stimulation of a signalling system

Nat Commun. 2016 Jul 29;7:12340. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12340.


Antimicrobial peptides are an important component of the molecular arsenal employed by hosts against bacteria. Many bacteria in turn possess pathways that provide protection against these compounds. In Escherichia coli and related bacteria, the PhoQ/PhoP signalling system is a key regulator of this antimicrobial peptide defence. Here we show that treating E. coli with sublethal concentrations of antimicrobial peptides causes cells to filament, and that this division block is controlled by the PhoQ/PhoP system. The filamentation results from increased expression of QueE, an enzyme that is part of a tRNA modification pathway but that, as we show here, also affects cell division. We also find that a functional YFP-QueE fusion localizes to the division septum in filamentous cells, suggesting QueE blocks septation through interaction with the divisome. Regulation of septation by PhoQ/PhoP may protect cells from antimicrobial peptide-induced stress or other conditions associated with high-level stimulation of this signalling system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Biosynthetic Pathways / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Chromosome Segregation / drug effects
  • Cytoplasm / drug effects
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Nucleoside Q / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • PhoQ protein, E coli
  • Nucleoside Q