Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

The Polyphosphate Kinase of Escherichia coli Is Required for Full Production of the Genotoxin Colibactin

Abstract : Colibactin induces DNA damage in mammalian cells and has been linked to the virulence of Escherichia coli and the promotion of colorectal cancer (CRC). By looking for mutants attenuated in the promoter activity of clbB encoding one of the key enzymes for the production of colibactin, we found that a mutant of the gene coding for the polyphosphate kinase (PPK) produced less colibactin than the parental strain. We observed this phenotype in different strains ranging from pathogens responsible for meningitis, urinary tract infection, or mouse colon carcinogenesis to the probiotic Nissle 1917. We confirmed the role of PPK by using an inhibitor of PPK enzymatic activity, mesalamine (also known as 5-aminosalicylic acid). Interestingly, mesalamine has a local anti-inflammatory effect on the epithelial cells of the colon and is used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Upon treatment with mesalamine, a decreased genotoxicity of colibactin-producing E. coli was observed both on epithelial cells and directly on purified DNA. This demonstrates the direct effect of mesalamine on bacteria independently from its anti-inflammatory effect on eukaryotic cells. Our results suggest that the mechanisms of action of mesalamine in treating IBD and preventing CRC could also lie in the inhibition of colibactin production. All in all, we demonstrate that PPK is required for the promoter activity of clbB and the production of colibactin, which suggests that PPK is a promising target for the development of anticolibactin and antivirulence strategies.IMPORTANCE Colibactin-producing E. coli induces DNA damage in eukaryotic cells and promotes tumor formation in mouse models of intestinal inflammation. Recent studies have provided strong evidence supporting the causative role of colibactin in human colorectal cancer (CRC) progression. Therefore, it is important to understand the regulation of the production of this genotoxin. Here, we demonstrate that polyphosphate kinase (PPK) is required for the promoter activity of clbB and the production of colibactin. Interestingly, PPK is a multifunctional player in bacterial virulence and stress responses and has been proposed as a new target for developing antimicrobial medicine. We observed inhibition of colibactin production by using a previously identified PPK inhibitor (i.e., mesalamine, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly prescribed for inflammatory bowel diseases). These data brought us a new perspective on the regulatory network of colibactin production and provided us a clue for the development of anticolibactin strategies for CRC treatment/prophylaxis.
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Nathalie Seguin <>
Submitted on : Monday, February 8, 2021 - 1:27:57 PM
Last modification on : Friday, June 4, 2021 - 4:44:01 PM


Publisher files allowed on an open archive


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License




Min Tang-Fichaux, Camille Chagneau, Nadège Bossuet-Greif, Jean-Philippe Nougayrède, Eric Oswald, et al.. The Polyphosphate Kinase of Escherichia coli Is Required for Full Production of the Genotoxin Colibactin. MSphere, American Society for Microbiology., 2020, 5 (6), pp.1-14. ⟨10.1128/mSphere.01195-20⟩. ⟨hal-03134525⟩



Record views


Files downloads