A continuous fluorometric assay for the assessment of MazF ribonuclease activity

Nora R. Wang, Paul J. Hergenrother

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plasmids maintain themselves in their bacterial host through several different mechanisms, one of which involves the synthesis of plasmid-encoded toxin and antitoxin proteins. When the plasmid is present, the antitoxin binds to and neutralizes the toxin. If a plasmid-free daughter cell arises, however, the labile antitoxin is degraded (and not replenished) and the toxin kills the cell from within. These toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems thereby function as postsegregational killing systems, and the disruption of the TA interaction represents an intriguing antibacterial strategy. It was recently discovered that the genes for one particular TA system, MazEF, are ubiquitous on plasmids isolated from clinical vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) strains. Thus, it appears that small molecule disruptors of the MazEF interaction have potential as antibacterial agents. The MazF toxin protein is known to be a ribonuclease. Unfortunately, traditional methods for the assessment of MazF activity rely on the use of radiolabeled substrates followed by analysis with polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. This article describes a simple and convenient continuous assay for the assessment of MazF activity. The assay uses an oligonucleotide with a fluorophore on the 5′ end and a quencher on the 3′ end, and processing of this substrate by MazF results in a large increase in the fluorescence signal. Through this assay, we have for the first time determined KM and Vmax values for this enzyme and have also found that MazF is not inhibited by standard ribonuclease inhibitors. This assay will be useful to those interested in the biochemistry of the MazF family of toxins and the disruption of MazE/MazF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-183
Number of pages11
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 15 2007


  • Antibacterials
  • Antibiotics
  • High-throughput screening
  • Protein-protein disruption
  • Toxin-antitoxin systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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