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Phylogenetic identification of bacterial MazF toxin protein motifs among probiotic strains and foodborne pathogens and potential implications of engineered probiotic intervention in food

Xianghe Yan1*, Joshua B Gurtler1, Pina M Fratamico1, Jing Hu2 and Vijay K Juneja1

Author Affiliations

1 Eastern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA, 19038, USA

2 Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Franklin & Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA, 17604, USA

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Cell & Bioscience 2012, 2:39  doi:10.1186/2045-3701-2-39

Published: 27 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are commonly found in bacteria and Archaea, and it is the most common mechanism involved in bacterial programmed cell death or apoptosis. Recently, MazF, the toxin component of the toxin-antitoxin module, has been categorized as an endoribonuclease, or it may have a function similar to that of a RNA interference enzyme.

Results

In this paper, with comparative data and phylogenetic analyses, we are able to identify several potential MazF-conserved motifs in limited subsets of foodborne pathogens and probiotic strains and further provide a molecular basis for the development of engineered/synthetic probiotic strains for the mitigation of foodborne illnesses. Our findings also show that some probiotic strains, as fit as many bacterial foodborne pathogens, can be genetically categorized into three major groups based on phylogenetic analysis of MazF. In each group, potential functional motifs are conserved in phylogenetically distant species, including foodborne pathogens and probiotic strains.

Conclusion

These data provide important knowledge for the identification and computational prediction of functional motifs related to programmed cell death. Potential implications of these findings include the use of engineered probiotic interventions in food or use of a natural probiotic cocktail with specificity for controlling targeted foodborne pathogens.

Keywords:
toxin-antitoxin module; probiotic cocktail; engineered probiotics; foodborne pathogens