- Colicins, proteinaceous antibiotics produced by Escherichia coli, specifically target competing strains killing them through one of a variety of mechanisms, including pore formation and nucleic acid degradation. The genes encoding colicins display a unique form of expression, which is tightly regulated, involving the DNA damage response regulatory system (the SOS response system), confined to stressful conditions and released by degradation of the producing cell. Given their lethal nature, colicin production has evolved a sophisticated system for repression and expression. While exploring the expression of 13 colicins we identified a novel means of induction unique to strains that kill by DNA degradation: these colicinogenic strains mildly poison themselves inflicting DNA damage that induces their DNA repair system (the SOS system), and their own expression. We established that among the four known DNase colicins (E2, E7, E8 and E9), three act to induce their own production. Using different stresses we show that this form of self-regulation entails high cost when growth conditions are not optimal, and is not carried out by individual cells but is a population-mediated trait. We discuss this novel form of colicins’ regulation and expression, and its possible molecular mechanism and evolutionary implications.