1887

Abstract

The oxyanion of tellurium, tellurite (), is toxic to most micro-organisms, particularly Gram-negative bacteria. The mechanism of tellurite toxicity is presently unknown. Many heavy metals and oxyanions, including tellurite, interact with reduced thiols (RSH). To determine if tellurite interaction with RSH groups is involved in the toxicity mechanism, the RSH content of cultures was assayed. After exposure to tellurite, cells were harvested and lysed in the presence of the RSH-specific reagent 5,5’-dithiobis(2-nitrobenzoic acid). Upon exposure of tellurite-susceptible cells to , the RSH content decreased markedly. Resistance to potassium tellurite (Te) in Gram-negative bacteria is encoded by plasmids of incompatibility groups IncFI, IncPα, IncHI2, IncHI3 and IncHII, as well as the operon from the chromosome. When cells harbouring a Te determinant were exposed to , only a small fraction of the RSH content became oxidized. In addition to tellurite-dependent thiol oxidation, the resistance of mutants affected in proteins involved in disulfide-bond formation () was investigated. Mutant strains of and were found to be hypersensitive to tellurite (MIC 0008–0015 μg KTeO ml compared to wild-type with MICs of 1–2 μg KTeO ml). In contrast, and mutants showed no hypersensitivity. The results suggest that hypersensitivity to tellurite is reliant on the presence of an isomerase activity and not the thiol oxidase activity of the Dsb proteins. The results establish that the Te determinants play an important role in maintaining homeostasis of the intracellular reducing environment within Gram-negative cells through specific reactions with either or thiol:tellurium products.

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1999-09-01
2021-10-19
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