Toxin-Antitoxin Systems and Persistence

  • Nathan Fraikin
  • Frédéric Goormaghtigh
  • Laurence Van MelderenEmail author


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are small genetic modules comprising a stable toxic protein and an antitoxin preventing the toxin activity. In type II TA systems, antitoxins are unstable proteins that are degraded by host ATP-dependent proteases. In steady-state conditions, the antitoxin forms a complex with the toxin in which the toxic activity is inactivated, this complex also being responsible for negative autoregulation of the system. Environmental or physiological conditions generating a imbalanced toxin:antitoxin ratio should induce TA systems and halt cell growth. Persistence has been linked to type II TA systems activation in Escherichia coli K-12 via a complex regulatory cascade involving antitoxin degradation by the Lon protease, polyphosphate, and (p)ppGpp. However, this model has been recently disproved questioning the involvement of type II TA systems in persistence, at least in the E. coli K-12 model. In this chapter, we discuss the relevant data linking type II TA systems and persistence in E. coli and other bacterial species.



Research in the Van Melderen lab is supported by the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS, T.0147.15F PDR and J.0061.16F CDR), the Fonds Jean Brachet and the Fondation Van Buuren.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Fraikin
    • 1
  • Frédéric Goormaghtigh
    • 1
  • Laurence Van Melderen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Cellular and Molecular Microbiology, Faculté des SciencesUniversité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)GosseliesBelgium

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