SUMMARY

Two modes of killing of Escherichia coli by hydrogen peroxide can be distinguished. Mode-one killing is maximal at 1–2 mm; at higher concentrations the killing rate is approximately half-maximal and is independent of H2O2 concentration but first order with respect to exposure time. Mutagenesis and induction of a phage lambda lysogen are similarly affected by H2O2 concentration, with reduced levels of response above 1–2 mm-H2O2. Mutagenesis is not affected by inactivation of umuC. Mode-one killing requires active metabolism during the H2O2 challenge and it results in sfiA-independent filamentation of both cells that survive and those that are killed by the challenge. This mode of killing is enhanced in xth, polA, recA and recB strains; however, it is unaffected by mutations in the nth, uvrA, uvrB, uvrC, uvrD, rep, gyrA, htpR and rel loci. Mode-one killing is normal in strains totally lacking catalase activity (katE, katG), glutathione reductase (gor) or glutathione synthetase (gshB), but enhanced in a strain lacking NADH dehydrogenase (ndh). Mode-one killing is accelerated by the presence of CN or by an unidentified function that is induced by anoxic growth and is under the control of the fnr locus. A strain carrying both xth and recA mutations and certain polA mutants appear to undergo spontaneous mode-one killing only under aerobic conditions. Taken together, these observations imply that mode-one killing results from DNA damage that normally occurs at a low, non-lethal level during aerobic growth. Models for the resistance to mode-one killing at doses above 1–2 mm-H2O2 will be discussed.

Mode-two killing occurs at high concentrations of H2O2 and longer times. It does not require active metabolism, and cells that are killed do not filament, although survivors demonstrate a dose-dependent growth lag followed by a period of filamentation. Mode-two killing is accompanied by enhanced mutagenesis, but strains with DNA repair defects were not observed to be especially sensitive to this mode of killing.

This content is only available via PDF.