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Concept: Corynebacterineae


Mycobacteria are shaped by a thick envelope made of an array of uniquely structured lipids and polysaccharides. However, the spatial organizations of these molecules remain unclear. Here we show that exposure to an esterase from Mycobacterium smegmatis (Msmeg_1529), hydrolyzing the ester linkage of trehalose dimycolate (TDM) in vitro, triggers rapid and efficient lysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis BCG, and Mycobacterium marinum. Exposure to the esterase immediately releases free mycolic acids, while concomitantly depleting trehalose mycolates. Moreover, lysis could be competitively inhibited by an excess of purified TDM and was abolished by a S124A mutation affecting the catalytic activity of the esterase. These findings are consistent with an indispensible structural role of trehalose mycolates in architectural design of the exposed surface of mycobacterial envelope. Importantly, we also demonstrate that the esterase-mediated rapid lysis of M. tuberculosis significantly improves its detection in paucibacillary samples.

Concepts: Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Mycobacterium bovis, Corynebacterineae, Acid fast bacilli, Mycobacterium marinum


The combination of trimethoprim (TMP) and sulfamethoxazole (SMX) has been shown to be active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) in clinical tuberculosis (TB) treatment. However, the mechanism of action of TMP-SMX against Mtb is still unknown. To unravel this, we have studied the effect of TMP and SMX by deleting folP2 gene in Mycobacterium smegmatis (Msm), and overexpressing the Mtb and Msm folP1/2 genes in Msm. Knocking out of the folP2 gene in Msm reduced the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of SMX 8-fold compared with wild type. Overexpression of the folP1 genes from Mtb and Msm increased the MICs by 4 and 2-fold in Msm for SMX and TMP respectively. We show a strong correlation between the expression of folP1 and folP2 genes and TMP-SMX resistance in mycobacteria. This suggests that a combination of FolP2 inhibitor and SMX could be used for TB treatment with a better outcome.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Corynebacterineae


It has recently been shown that the anti-mycobacterial pro-drug thiacetazone (TAC) inhibits the conversion of double bonds of mycolic acid precursors into cyclopropyl rings in Mycobacterium bovis var BCG, M. marimum and M. chelonae by affecting the cyclopropyl mycolic acid synthases (CMASs) as judged by the build-up of unsaturated mycolate precursors. In our hands, TAC inhibits mycolic acid biosynthesis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. kansasii with almost negligible accumulation of those precursors. Our observations that ‘de novo’ biosynthesis of all the mycolic acid families decreased upon TAC treatment prompted us to analyse the role of each one of the Type II Fatty Acid Synthase (FASII) enzymes. Overexpression of the hadABC operon, encoding the essential FASII dehydratase complex, but not of any of the remaining FASII genes acting on the elongation of fatty acyl chains leading to the synthesis of meromycolic acids, resulted in high level of resistance to TAC in M. tuberculosis. Spontaneous M. tuberculosis and M. kansasii TAC-resistant mutants isolated during this work revealed mutations in the hadABC genes strongly supporting our proposal that these enzymes are new players in the resistance to this anti-mycobacterial compound.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Fatty acid synthase, Corynebacterineae, Acid fast bacilli, Mycobacterium kansasii


Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Mycobacterium bovis and still remains one of the world’s biggest global health burdens. Recently, engineered polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biobeads produced in both E. coli and Lactococcus lactis displaying mycobacterial antigens were found to induce significant cell mediated immune responses in mice. We observed that such PHA beads contained host cell proteins as impurities which we hypothesized to have the potential to induce immunity. In this study we aimed to develop PHA beads produced in mycobacteria (mycobacterial PHA biobeads, MBB) and test their potential as TB vaccine in a mouse model. As a model organism, nonpathogenic Mycobacterium smegmatis was engineered to produce MBB or MBB with immobilized mycobacterial antigens Ag85A and ESAT-6 on their surface (A:E-MBB). Three key enzymes involved in the poly(3-hydroxybutyric acid) pathway, namely β-ketothiolase (PhaA), acetoacetyl-CoA reductase (PhaB), and PHA synthase (PhaC), were engineered into E. coli-mycobacteria shuttle plasmids and expressed in trans. Immobilization of specific antigens to the surface of the MBB was achieved by creating a fusion with the PHA synthase which remains covalently attached to the polyester core, resulting in PHA biobeads displaying covalently immobilized antigens.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Bacteria, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Corynebacterineae


Background: Extrapulmonary tuberculosis (EPTB) constitutes about 10% to 20% of all cases of tuberculosis in immunocompetent patients and more than 50% of the cases in HIV-positive individuals worldwide. Little information is available on the clonal diversity of Mycobacterium species in Ethiopia from EPTB. Methods: This study was carried out on smear-negative EPTB patients to molecularly characterize Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex strains. A questionnaire, smear staining, culture, deletion typing, and spoligotyping were employed. Results: The proportional distribution of EPTB and isolates did not vary substantially (p > 0.05) amongst the socio-demographic parameters considered in the current investigation. Out of 98 fine needle aspirates processed for culture, 36.7% (36/98) were positive for mycobacterial growth. Further speciation of those culture-positive isolates showed that 88.9% were M. tuberculosis and the remaining could be non-tuberculous mycobacterial species. Spoligotyping revealed 16 clusters out of which 2 were new to the SITVIT database. The most dominant spoligotypes were SIT54, SIT53, and SIT149 in decreasing order. SIT54, SIT134, SIT173, SIT345, SIT357, SIT926, SIT91088, and SIT1580 were reported for the first time in Ethiopia. The family with the highest frequency identified was M. tuberculosis family T1, followed by family 33. Most of the strains belonged to Euro-American (61.4%) and Indo-Oceanic (36.3%) lineages. Conclusions: The present study shows the importance of M. tuberculosis as a major cause of EPTB in the study area. Moreover, the majority of isolates of M. tuberculosis were found in clusters, suggesting the possibility of the existence of recent transmission. This warrants strengthening of the control programs for EPTB in the study area.

Concepts: Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium complex, Corynebacterineae, Acid fast bacilli, Mycobacterium africanum, Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex


Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) causes Johne’s disease (JD) in ruminants with substantial economic impacts to the cattle industry. Johne’s disease is known for its long latency period and difficulties in diagnosis are due to insensitivities of current detection methods. Eradication is challenging as MAP can survive for extended periods within the environment, resulting in new infections in naïve animals (3). This study explored the use of a biosecure, static composting structure to inactivate MAP. Mycobacterium smegmatis was also assessed as a surrogate for MAP. Two structures were constructed to hold three cattle carcasses each. Naturally-infected tissues and ground beef inoculated with laboratory cultured MAP and M. smegmatis were placed in nylon and plastic bags to determine effect of temperature and compost environment on viability over 250 (days) d. After removal, samples were cultured and growth of both organisms assessed after 12 weeks (wks). After 250 d, MAP was still detectable by PCR, while M. smegmatis was not detected after 67 d of composting. Furthermore, MAP remained viable in both implanted nylon and plastic bags over the composting period. As the compost never reached a homogenous thermophillic (55-65°C) state throughout each structure, an in vitro experiment was conducted to examine viability of MAP after exposure to 80°C for 90 d. Naturally-infected lymph tissues were mixed with and without compost. After 90 d, MAP remained viable despite exposure to temperatures typically higher than that achieved in compost. In conclusion, it is unlikely composting can be used as a means of inactivating MAP associated with cattle mortalities.

Concepts: Disease, Mycobacterium, Cattle, In vitro, Mycobacterium avium complex, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Corynebacterineae, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis


Binding of the macrophage lectin mincle to trehalose dimycolate, a key glycolipid virulence factor on the surface of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis, initiates responses that can lead both to toxicity and to protection of these pathogens from destruction. Crystallographic structural analysis, site-directed mutagenesis, and binding studies with glycolipid mimics have been used to define an extended binding site in the C-type carbohydrate-recognition domain (CRD) of bovine mincle that encompasses both the headgroup and a portion of the attached acyl chains. One glucose residue of the trehalose Glcα1-1Glcα headgroup is liganded to a Ca(2+) in a manner common to many C-type CRDs, while the second glucose residue is accommodated in a novel secondary binding site. The additional contacts in the secondary site lead to a 36-fold higher affinity for trehalose compared to glucose. An adjacent hydrophobic groove, not seen in other C-type CRDs, provides a docking site for one of the acyl chains attached to the trehalose, which can be targeted with small molecule analogues of trehalose dimycolate that bind with 52-fold higher affinity than trehalose. The data demonstrate how mincle bridges between the surfaces of the macrophage and the mycobacterium and suggest the possibility of disrupting this interaction. In addition, the results may provide a basis for design of adjuvants that mimic the ability of mycobacteria to stimulate a response to immunization that can be employed in vaccine development.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Microbiology, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Corynebacterineae


Members of the genus Mycobacterium are the most prevalent cause of infectious diseases. Mycobacteria have a complex cell envelope containing a peptidoglycan layer and an additional arabinogalactan polymer to which a mycolic acid bilayer is linked; this complex, multilayered cell wall composition (mAGP) is conserved among all CMN group bacteria. The arabinogalactan and mycolic acid synthesis pathways constitute effective drug targets for tuberculosis treatment. Ethambutol (EMB), a classical antituberculosis drug, inhibits the synthesis of the arabinose polymer. Although EMB acts bacteriostatically, its underlying molecular mechanism remains unclear. Here, we used Corynebacterium glutamicum and Mycobacterium phlei as model organisms to study the effects of EMB at the single-cell level. Our results demonstrate that EMB specifically blocks apical cell wall synthesis, but not cell division, explaining the bacteriostatic effect of EMB. Furthermore, the data suggest that members of the family Corynebacterineae have two dedicated machineries for cell elongation (elongasome) and cytokinesis (divisome).

Concepts: Cell, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Tuberculosis, Cell wall, Mycobacterium, Corynebacterineae, Corynebacterium


We conducted epidemiologic and genetic analyses of family clusters of Mycobacterium ulcerans (Buruli ulcer) disease in southeastern Australia. We found that the incidence of M. ulcerans disease in family members was increased. However, the risk for exposure appeared short-term and not related to human-human transmission.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Infectious diseases, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium ulcerans, Corynebacterineae, Buruli ulcer


Mycobacterium marinum causes skin and soft tissue, bone and joint, and rare disseminated infections. In this study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between treatment outcome and antimicrobial susceptibility patterns. A total of 27 patients with M. marinum infections were enrolled.

Concepts: Causality, Tissues, Joint, Skin, Mycobacterium, Soft tissue, Corynebacterineae, Mycobacterium marinum