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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Mar;47(6):1723-32.

Association of mycothiol with protection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from toxic oxidants and antibiotics.

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Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0506, USA.


Mycothiol, MSH or 1D-myo-inosityl 2-(N-acetyl-L-cysteinyl)amido-2-deoxy-alpha-D-glucopyranoside, is an unusual conjugate of N-acetylcysteine (AcCys) with 1D-myo-inosityl 2-acetamido-2-deoxy-alpha-D-glucopyranoside (GlcN-Ins), and is the major low-molecular-mass thiol in mycobacteria. Mycothiol has antioxidant activity as well as the ability to detoxify a variety of toxic compounds. Because of these activities, MSH is a candidate for protecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis from inactivation by the host during infections as well as for resisting antituberculosis drugs. In order to define the protective role of MSH for M. tuberculosis, we have constructed an M. tuberculosis mutant in Rv1170, one of the candidate MSH biosynthetic genes. During exponential growth, the Rv1170 mutant bacteria produced approximately 20% of wild-type levels of MSH. Levels of the Rv1170 substrate, GlcNAc-Ins, were elevated, whereas those of the product, GlcN-Ins, were reduced. This establishes that the Rv1170 gene encodes for the major GlcNAc-Ins deacetylase activity (termed MshB) in the MSH biosynthetic pathway of M. tuberculosis. The Rv1170 mutant grew poorly on agar media lacking catalase and oleic acid, and had heightened sensitivities to the toxic oxidant cumene hydroperoxide and to the antibiotic rifampin. In addition, the mutant was more resistant to isoniazid, suggesting a role for MSH in activation of this prodrug. These data indicate that MSH contributes to the protection of M. tuberculosis from oxidants and influences resistance to two first-line antituberculosis drugs.

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