Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Nitric oxide disrupts bacterial cytokinesis by poisoning purine metabolism

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Science Advances  26 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 9, eaaz0260
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0260


Cytostasis is the most salient manifestation of the potent antimicrobial activity of nitric oxide (NO), yet the mechanism by which NO disrupts bacterial cell division is unknown. Here, we show that in respiring Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Bacillus subtilis, NO arrests the first step in division, namely, the GTP-dependent assembly of the bacterial tubulin homolog FtsZ into a cytokinetic ring. FtsZ assembly fails in respiring cells because NO inactivates inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase in de novo purine nucleotide biosynthesis and quinol oxidases in the electron transport chain, leading to drastic depletion of nucleoside triphosphates, including the GTP needed for the polymerization of FtsZ. Despite inhibiting respiration and dissipating proton motive force, NO does not destroy Z ring formation and only modestly decreases nucleoside triphosphates in glycolytic cells, which obtain much of their ATP by substrate-level phosphorylation and overexpress inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase. Purine metabolism dictates the susceptibility of early morphogenic steps in cytokinesis to NO toxicity.

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