The 52 amino acid host killing peptide (Hok) from the hok/sok post-segregational killer system of the Escherichia coli plasmid R1 was synthesized using Fmoc (9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl) chemistry, and its molecular weight was confirmed by mass spectroscopy. Hok kills cells by depolarizing the cytoplasmic membrane when it is made in the cytosol. Six microorganisms, E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, P. putida, Salmonella typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus were exposed to the purified peptide but showed no significant killing. However, electroporation of Hok (200 μgml-1) into E. coli cells showed a dramatic reduction (100 000-fold) in the number of cells transformed with plasmid DNA which indicates that the synthetic Hok peptide killed cells. Electroporation of Hok into P. putida was also very effective with a 500-fold reduction in electrocompetent cells (100 μgml-1). Heat shock in the presence of Hok (380 μgml-1) resulted in a 5-fold reduction in E. coli cells but had no effect on B. subtilis. In addition, three Hok fragments (Hok(1-28), Hok(31-52) and Hok(16-52)) killed cells when electroporated into E. coli at 200 μgml-1 (over 1000-fold killing for Hok(1-28), 50-fold killing for Hok(16-52) and over 1000-fold killing for Hok(31-52)). E. coli cells electroporated with Hok and visualized using transmission electron microscopy showed the same morphological changes as control cells to which Hok was induced using a plasmid inside the cell.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology