Toxin/antitoxin (TA) systems are prevalent in most bacterial and archaeal genomes, and one of the emerging physiological roles of TA systems is to help regulate pathogenicity. Although TA systems have been studied in several model organisms, few studies have investigated the role of TA systems in pseudomonads. Here, we demonstrate that the previously uncharacterized proteins HigB (unannotated) and HigA (PA4674) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 form a type II TA system in which antitoxin HigA masks the RNase activity of toxin HigB through direct binding. Furthermore, toxin HigB reduces production of the virulence factors pyochelin, pyocyanin, swarming, and biofilm formation; hence, this system affects the pathogencity of this strain in a manner that has not been demonstrated previously for TA systems.
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