Protection of the DNA during the exposure of Escherichia coli cells to a toxic metabolite: the role of the KefB and KefC potassium channels

G P Ferguson, J R Battista, A T Lee, I R Booth

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The effect of the toxic metabolite methylglyoxal on the DNA of Escherichia coil cells has been investigated. Exposure of E. coli cells to methylglyoxal reduces the transformability of plasmid DNA and results in the degradation of genomic DNA. The activity of the KefB and KefC potassium channels protects E. coil cells against methylglyoxal and limits the amount of DNA damage. In mutants lacking KefB and KefC, methylglyoxal-induced DNA damage was reduced by incubation with a weak acid that lowers the pi-ii to the same extent as through KefB and KefC activation. This provides evidence that acidification of the cytoplasm protects E. coil DNA against methylglyoxal. By the analysis of cells lacking UvrA, we demonstrate that this repair protein is required for the degradation of the DNA upon methylglyoxal exposure. However, protection by KefB and KefC occurred independently of UvrA. Although we present evidence that exposure of E. coli cells to methylglyoxal results in DNA degradation, our results suggest this event is not essential for methylglyoxal-induced death. The implications of these findings will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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