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Contribution of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis MmpL protein family to virulence and drug resistance.

Domenech P., Reed M.B., Barry C.E. III

The genome sequence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis revealed the presence of 12 membrane proteins proposed to have a function in the transport of lipids. Insertional inactivation of 11 of these has revealed that only 1 (MmpL3) is apparently essential for viability. Five of these proteins are conserved within the genome of Mycobacterium leprae. The drug susceptibilities of these 11 mutants to a broad spectrum of agents are unaltered, suggesting that unlike their function in other organisms, these proteins do not play a significant role in intrinsic drug resistance. Each of these mutants was assessed for growth kinetics and lethality in a murine low-dose aerosol model of tuberculosis, and four were found to be impaired in one or both measures of virulence. Two of these, with mutations of MmpL4 and the previously characterized MmpL7, which transports phthiocerol dimycocerosate, were found to have both impaired growth kinetics and impaired lethality. Mutants with inactivation of MmpL8, which transports a precursor of the sulfatides, or MmpL11, which transports an unknown substrate, were found to establish infection normally but to be significantly attenuated for lethality in time-to-death studies. These studies support the concept that MmpL-mediated lipid secretion both contributes to the innate ability of the pathogen to survive intracellularly and also contributes directly to the host-pathogen dialogue that determines the ultimate outcome of infection.

Infect. Immun. 73:3492-3501(2005) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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