Indexed on: 31 Mar '09Published on: 31 Mar '09Published in: Journal of bacteriology
Nutritional competence is the ability of bacterial cells to utilize exogenous double-stranded DNA molecules as a nutrient source. We previously identified several genes in Escherichia coli that are important for this process and proposed a model, based on models of natural competence and transformation in bacteria, where it is assumed that single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) is degraded following entry into the cytoplasm. Since E. coli has several exonucleases, we determined whether they play a role in the long-term survival and the catabolism of DNA as a nutrient. We show here that mutants lacking either ExoI, ExoVII, ExoX, or RecJ are viable during all phases of the bacterial life cycle yet cannot compete with wild-type cells during long-term stationary-phase incubation. We also show that nuclease mutants, alone or in combination, are defective in DNA catabolism, with the exception of the ExoX(-) single mutant. The ExoX(-) mutant consumes double-stranded DNA better than wild-type cells, possibly implying the presence of two pathways in E. coli for the processing of ssDNA as it enters the cytoplasm.