Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: Bacterial resistance to arsenic protects against protist killing.

Authors: Hao, Xiuli; Li, Xuanji; Pal, Chandan; Hobman, Jon; Larsson, D G Joakim; Saquib, Quaiser; Alwathnani, Hend A; Rosen, Barry P; Zhu, Yong-Guan; Rensing, Christopher

Published In Biometals, (2017 04)

Abstract: Protists kill their bacterial prey using toxic metals such as copper. Here we hypothesize that the metalloid arsenic has a similar role. To test this hypothesis, we examined intracellular survival of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum (D. discoideum). Deletion of the E. coli ars operon led to significantly lower intracellular survival compared to wild type E. coli. This suggests that protists use arsenic to poison bacterial cells in the phagosome, similar to their use of copper. In response to copper and arsenic poisoning by protists, there is selection for acquisition of arsenic and copper resistance genes in the bacterial prey to avoid killing. In agreement with this hypothesis, both copper and arsenic resistance determinants are widespread in many bacterial taxa and environments, and they are often found together on plasmids. A role for heavy metals and arsenic in the ancient predator-prey relationship between protists and bacteria could explain the widespread presence of metal resistance determinants in pristine environments.

PubMed ID: 28210928 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Arsenic/metabolism*; Arsenic/toxicity; Copper/metabolism; Copper/toxicity; Dictyostelium/physiology*; Drug Resistance, Bacterial/genetics*; Escherichia coli/drug effects; Escherichia coli/genetics*; Escherichia coli/metabolism; Food Chain; Gene Deletion; Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*; Genes, Bacterial*; Microbial Viability; Operon; Plasmids/chemistry; Plasmids/metabolism

to Top