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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Involvement of the relA gene in the autolysis of Escherichia coli induced by inhibitors of peptidoglycan biosynthesis.

It is generally assumed that inhibitors of peptidoglycan biosynthesis do not kill nongrowing bacteria. An exceptional case is reported here. The addition of chloramphenicol to amino acid-deprived cultures of relA+ strains of Escherichia coli which were treated with beta-lactam antibiotics, D-cycloserine, or moenomycin resulted in lysis. This phenomenon is termed chloramphenicol-dependent lysis. To be effective, chloramphenicol had to be present at its minimum growth-inhibitory concentration (or higher). Analogs of chloramphenicol which did not bind to ribosomes were completely ineffective. Amino acid deprivation was actually not required to demonstrate chloramphenicol-dependent lysis, and cultures treated with growth-inhibitory levels of chloramphenicol alone were lysed when challenged with inhibitors of peptidoglycan synthesis. Peptidoglycan synthesis has been shown previously to be under stringent (relA+) control, and chloramphenicol is known to be an antagonist of stringent control. Thus, it is proposed that the mechanism of chloramphenicol-dependent lysis is based on the ability of chloramphenicol to relax peptidoglycan synthesis in nongrowing relA+ bacteria. This is also consistent with the observation that treatment of amino acid-deprived relA mutants with inhibitors of peptidoglycan synthesis resulted in lysis, i.e., without the mediation of chloramphenicol.[1]


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