Artificial activation of toxin-antitoxin systems as an antibacterial strategy

Julia J. Williams, Paul J. Hergenrother

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are unique modules that effect plasmid stabilization via post-segregational killing of the bacterial host. The genes encoding TA systems also exist on bacterial chromosomes, and it has been speculated that these are involved in a variety of cellular processes. Interest in TA systems has increased dramatically over the past 5 years as the ubiquitous nature of TA genes on bacterial genomes has been revealed. The exploitation of TA systems as an antibacterial strategy via artificial activation of the toxin has been proposed and has considerable potential; however, efforts in this area remain in the early stages and several major questions remain. This review investigates the tractability of targeting TA systems to kill bacteria, including fundamental requirements for success, recent advances, and challenges associated with artificial toxin activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-298
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Addiction modules
  • Antibiotics
  • Extracellular death factor
  • MazEF gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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