Escherichia coli RclA is a highly active hypothiocyanite reductase

Academic Article


  • Hypothiocyanite and hypothiocyanous acid (OSCN2/HOSCN) are pseudohypohalous acids released by the innate immune system which are capable of rapidly oxidizing sulfur-containing amino acids, causing significant protein aggregation and damage to invading bacteria. HOSCN is abundant in saliva and airway secretions and has long been considered a highly specific antimicrobial that is nearly harmless to mammalian cells. However, certain bacteria, commensal and pathogenic, are able to escape damage by HOSCN and other harmful antimicrobials during inflammation, which allows them to continue to grow and, in some cases, cause severe disease. The exact genes or mechanisms by which bacteria respond to HOSCN have not yet been elucidated. We have found, in Escherichia coli, that the flavoprotein RclA, previously implicated in reactive chlorine resistance, reduces HOSCN to thiocyanate with near-perfect catalytic efficiency and strongly protects E. coli against HOSCN toxicity. This is notable in E. coli because this species thrives in the chronically inflamed environment found in patients with inflammatory bowel disease and is able to compete with and outgrow other important commensal organisms, suggesting that HOSCN may be a relevant antimicrobial in the gut, which has not previously been explored. RclA is conserved in a variety of epithelium-colonizing bacteria, implicating its HOSCN reductase activity in a variety of host–microbe interactions. We show that an rclA mutant of the probiotic Limosilactobacillus reuteri is sensitive to HOSCN and that RclA homologs from Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron all have potent protective activity against HOSCN when expressed in E. coli.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Meredith JD; Chapman I; Ulrich K; Sebastian C; Stull F; Gray MJ
  • Volume

  • 119
  • Issue

  • 30