Type I toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules are abundant in both bacterial plasmids and chromosomes and usually encode a small hydrophobic toxic protein and an antisense RNA acting as an antitoxin. The RNA antitoxin neutralizes toxin mRNA by inhibiting its translation and/or promoting its degradation. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the type I TA modules identified in Clostridia species focusing on the recent findings in the human pathogen Clostridium difficile
. More than ten functional type I TA modules have been identified in the genome of this emerging enteropathogen that could potentially contribute to its fitness and success inside the host. Despite the absence of sequence homology, the comparison of these newly identified type I TA modules with previously studied systems in other Gram-positive bacteria, i.e., Bacillus subtilis
and Staphylococcus aureus,
revealed some important common traits. These include the conservation of characteristic sequence features for small hydrophobic toxic proteins, the localization of several type I TA within prophage or prophage-like regions and strong connections with stress response. Potential functions in the stabilization of genome regions, adaptations to stress conditions and interactions with CRISPR-Cas defence system, as well as promising applications of TA for genome-editing and antimicrobial developments are discussed.
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