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Formaldehyde Stress Responses in Bacterial Pathogens

Chen, Nathan H.; Djoko, Karrera Y.; Veyrier, Frédéric J.; McEwan, Alastair G.

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Nathan H. Chen

Frédéric J. Veyrier

Alastair G. McEwan


Formaldehyde is the simplest of all aldehydes and is highly cytotoxic. Its use and associated dangers from environmental exposure have been well documented. Detoxification systems for formaldehyde are found throughout the biological world and they are especially important in methylotrophic bacteria, which generate this compound as part of their metabolism of methanol. Formaldehyde metabolizing systems can be divided into those dependent upon pterin cofactors, sugar phosphates and those dependent upon glutathione. The more prevalent thiol-dependent formaldehyde detoxification system is found in many bacterial pathogens, almost all of which do not metabolize methane or methanol. This review describes the endogenous and exogenous sources of formaldehyde, its toxic effects and mechanisms of detoxification. The methods of formaldehyde sensing are also described with a focus on the formaldehyde responsive transcription factors HxlR, FrmR, and NmlR. Finally, the physiological relevance of detoxification systems for formaldehyde in bacterial pathogens is discussed.


Chen, N. H., Djoko, K. Y., Veyrier, F. J., & McEwan, A. G. (2016). Formaldehyde Stress Responses in Bacterial Pathogens. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, Article 257.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 16, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2016
Publication Date Mar 3, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 17, 2017
Journal Frontiers in Microbiology
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 257


Published Journal Article (2.9 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2016 Chen, Djoko, Veyrier and McEwan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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