When a sensitive population of is exposed to streptomycin, two effects of the drug on viability can be experimentally differentiated: (1) a sublethal injury from which the cells recover once streptomycin is removed, and (2) a lethal injury from which no recovery occurs. Protein synthesis is markedly inhibited by streptomycin before sublethal or lethal effects on viability are noted. The effect on protein synthesis of exposure to streptomycin cannot be reversed by washing the cells by centrifugation, but protein synthesis recovers its original rate on further incubation after streptomycin is removed. It is postulated that streptomycin causes both sublethal and lethal injury to cells by irreversibly blocking protein synthesis, possibly by inactivating ribosomes.


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