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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Aug 4;95(16):9578-83.

The 16-kDa alpha-crystallin (Acr) protein of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is required for growth in macrophages.

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  • 1Tuberculosis Research Unit, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Although the 16-kDa alpha-crystallin homologue of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is the dominant protein produced by stationary phase cultures in vitro, it is undetectable in logarithmically growing cultures. By growing bacilli at defined oxygen concentrations, acr transcription was shown to be strongly induced by mildly hypoxic conditions. Acr expression also was found to be induced during the course of in vitro infection of macrophages. The acr gene was replaced with a hygromycin resistance cassette by allelic exchange in MTB H37Rv. The resulting Deltaacr::hpt strain was shown to be equivalent to wild-type H37Rv in in vitro growth rate and infectivity but was significantly impaired for growth in both mouse bone marrow derived macrophages and THP-1 cells. In addition to its proposed role in maintenance of long-term viability during latent, asymptomatic infections, these results establish a role for the Acr protein in replication during initial MTB infection.

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