The role of PemIK (PemK/PemI) type II TA system from Klebsiella pneumoniae clinical strains in lytic phage infection

Ines Bleriot, Lucia Blasco, Olga Pacios, Laura Fernández-García, Antón Ambroa, María López, Concha Ortiz-Cartagena, Felipe Fernández Cuenca, Jesús Oteo-Iglesias, Álvaro Pascual, Luis Martínez-Martínez, Pilar Domingo-Calap, Thomas K. Wood, María Tomás

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13 Scopus citations


Since their discovery, toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems have captivated the attention of many scientists. Recent studies have demonstrated that TA systems play a key role in phage inhibition. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of the PemIK (PemK/PemI) type II TA system in phage inhibition by its intrinsic expression in clinical strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae carrying the lncL plasmid, which harbours the carbapenemase OXA-48 and the PemK/PemI TA system. Furthermore, induced expression of the system in an IPTG-inducible plasmid in a reference strain of K. pneumoniae ATCC10031 was also studied. The results showed that induced expression of the whole TA system did not inhibit phage infection, whereas overexpression of the pemK toxin prevented early infection. To investigate the molecular mechanism involved in the PemK toxin-mediated inhibition of phage infection, assays measuring metabolic activity and viability were performed, revealing that overexpression of the PemK toxin led to dormancy of the bacteria. Thus, we demonstrate that the PemK/PemI TA system plays a role in phage infection and that the action of the free toxin induces a dormant state in the cells, resulting in inhibition of phage infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4488
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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