Toxin induction or inhibition of transcription or translation posttreatment increases persistence to fluoroquinolones

Annabel S. Lemma, Mark P. Brynildsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Toxin-antitoxin modules are widespread in prokaryotes, and the capacity of toxin accumulation to increase the tolerances of bacteria to antibiotics has been well documented. The conventional model for this functionality implies that an over-abundance of toxin arrests bacterial growth, which inhibits processes targeted by antibiotics and thereby limits their corruption and the lethal damage that would ensue. Implicit in this model is that toxins exert their influence on antibiotic lethality before and/or during treatment, even though they are also present and functional after treatment concludes. Given recent evidence establishing that the period following antibiotic treatment (recovery) is important for the survival of nongrowing bacterial populations treated with fluoroquinolones (FQs), we assayed to what extent toxins influence bacterial survival during the recovery period. With both LdrD and MazF, toxins of type I and II systems, respectively, controlling accumulation to occur only after FQ treatment of nongrowing cultures resulted in significant increases in persisters. Further genetic inves-tigation revealed important roles for homologous recombination and nucleotide excision repair machinery. Focusing on the wild type, we did not observe any SOS-induced toxin functioning in this manner; however, an analogous phenomenon was observed for wild-type Escherichia coli as well as uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) when transcription or translation was inhibited during the post-FQ recovery period. Collectively, these data reveal the capacity of toxins to thwart FQ killing even after the treatment has con-cluded and show that FQ treatment of nongrowing bacteria can be rendered largely ineffective if bacteria cannot readily resume translation and growth at the conclusion of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01983-21
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology
  • Microbiology


  • Nongrowing
  • Persister
  • Recovery
  • Stationary phase
  • TA module


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