Importance of RpoS and Dps in survival of exposure of both exponential- and stationary-phase Escherichia coli cells to the electrophile N-ethylmaleimide

Gail Patricia Ferguson, R I Creighton, Y Nikolaev, Ian Rylance Booth

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The mechanisms by which Escherichia coli cells survive exposure to the toxic electrophile N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) have been investigated. Stationary-phase E. coli cells were more resistant to NEM than exponential-phase cells. The KefB and KefC systems were found to play an important role in protecting both exponential- and stationary-phase cells against NEM. Additionally, RpoS and the DNA-binding protein Dps aided the survival of both exponential- and stationary-phase cells against NEM. Double mutants lacking both RpoS and Dps and triple mutants deficient in KefB and KefC and either RpoS or Dps had an increased sensitivity to NEM in both exponential- and stationary-phase cells compared to mutants missing only one of these protective mechanisms. Stationary- and exponential-phase cells of a quadruple mutant lacking all four protective systems displayed even greater sensitivity to NEM. These results indicated that protection by the KefB and KefC systems, RpoS and Dps can each occur independently of the other systems. Alterations in the level of RpoS in exponentially growing cells correlated with the degree of NEM sensitivity. Decreasing the level of RpoS by enriching the growth medium enhanced sensitivity to NEM, whereas a mutant lacking the ClpP protease accumulated RpoS and gained high levels of resistance to NEM. A slower-growing E. coli strain was also found to accumulate RpoS and had enhanced resistance to NEM. These data emphasize the multiplicity of pathways involved in protecting E. coli cells against NEM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1030-1036
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1998



  • Antiporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Escherichia coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Ethylmaleimide
  • Mutation
  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium-Hydrogen Antiporters
  • Sigma Factor

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