Lex marks the spot: the virulent side of SOS and a closer look at the LexA regulon

Authors

  • William L. Kelley

    1. Laboratory of Microbial Genetics, Service of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital of Geneva, 24 rue Micheli-du-Crest, CH-1211, Geneva 14, Switzerland.
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*E-mail William.Kelley@hcuge.ch; Tel. (+41) 22 372 9819; Fax (+41) 22 372 9830.

Summary

The SOS response that responds to DNA damage induces many genes that are under LexA repression. A detailed examination of LexA regulons using genome-wide techniques has recently been undertaken in both Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. These extensive and elegant studies have now charted the extent of the LexA regulons, uncovered many new genes, and exposed a limited overlap in the LexA regulon between the two bacteria. As more bacterial genomes are analysed, more curiosities in LexA regulons arise. Several notable examples include the discovery of a LexA-like protein, HdiR, in Lactococcus lactis, organisms with two lexA genes, and small DNA damage-inducible cassettes under LexA control. In the cyanobacterium Synechocystis, genetic and microarray studies demonstrated that a LexA paralogue exerts control over an entirely different set of carbon-controlled genes and is crucial to cells facing carbon starvation. An examination of SOS induction evoked by common therapeutic drugs has shed new light on unsuspected consequences of drug exposure. Certain antibiotics, most notably fluoroquinolones such as ciprofloxacin, can induce an SOS response and can modulate the spread of virulence factors and drug resistance. SOS induction by β-lactams in E. coli triggers a novel form of antibiotic defence that involves cell wall stress and signal transduction by the DpiAB two-component system. In this review, we provide an overview of these new directions in SOS and LexA research with emphasis on a few themes: identification of genes under LexA control, the identification of new endogenous triggers, and antibiotic-induced SOS response and its consequences.

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