Chromosomally Encoded hok-sok Toxin-Antitoxin System in the Fire Blight Pathogen Erwinia amylovora: Identification and Functional Characterization.


Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA [Email]


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are genetic elements composed of a protein toxin and a counteracting antitoxin that is either a noncoding RNA or protein. In type I TA systems, the antitoxin is a noncoding small RNA (sRNA) that base pairs with the cognate toxin mRNA interfering with its translation. Although type I TA systems have been extensively studied in Escherichia coli and a few human or animal bacterial pathogens, they have not been characterized in plant-pathogenic bacteria. In this study, we characterized a chromosomal locus in the plant pathogen Erwinia amylovora Ea1189 that is homologous to the hok-sok type I TA system previously identified in the Enterobacteriaceae-restricted plasmid R1. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the chromosomal location of the hok-sok locus is, thus far, unique to E. amylovora We demonstrated that ectopic overexpression of hok is highly toxic to E. amylovora and that the sRNA sok reversed the toxicity of hok through mok, a reading frame presumably translationally coupled with hok We also identified the region that is essential for maintenance of the main toxicity of Hok. Through a hok-sok deletion mutant (Ea1189Δhok-sok), we determined the contribution of the hok-sok locus to cellular growth, micromorphology, and catalase activity. Combined, our findings indicate that the hok-sok TA system, besides being potentially self-toxic, provides fitness advantages to E. amylovoraIMPORTANCE Bacterial toxin-antitoxin systems have received great attention because of their potential as targets for antimicrobial development and as tools for biotechnology. Erwinia amylovora, the causal agent of fire blight disease on pome fruit trees, is a major plant-pathogenic bacterium. In this study, we identified and functionally characterized a unique chromosomally encoded hok-sok toxin-antitoxin system in E. amylovora that resembles the plasmid-encoded copies of this system in other Enterobacteriaceae This study of a type I toxin-antitoxin system in a plant-pathogenic bacterium provides the basis to further understand the involvement of toxin-antitoxin systems during infection by a plant-pathogenic bacterium. The new linkage between the hok-sok toxin-antitoxin system and the catalase-mediated oxidative stress response leads to additional considerations of targeting this system for antimicrobial development.


catalase,fire blight,hok-sok,type I TA systems,