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J Biol Chem. 2005 Mar 25;280(12):10981-7. Epub 2005 Jan 5.

Function of phosphatidylinositol in mycobacteria.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Phosphatidylinositol (PI) is an abundant phospholipid in the cytoplasmic membrane of mycobacteria and the precursor for more complex glycolipids, such as the PI mannosides (PIMs) and lipoarabinomannan (LAM). To investigate whether the large steady-state pools of PI and apolar PIMs are required for mycobacterial growth, we have generated a Mycobacterium smegmatis inositol auxotroph by disruption of the ino1 gene. The ino1 mutant displayed wild-type growth rates and steady-state levels of PI, PIM, and LAM when grown in the presence of 1 mM inositol. The non-dividing ino1 mutant was highly resistant to inositol starvation, reflecting the slow turnover of inositol lipids in this stage. In contrast, dilution of growing or stationary-phase ino1 mutant in inositol-free medium resulted in the rapid depletion of PI and apolar PIMs. Whereas depletion of these lipids was not associated with loss of viability, subsequent depletion of polar PIMs coincided with loss of major cell wall components and cell viability. Metabolic labeling experiments confirmed that the large pools of PI and apolar PIMs were used to sustain polar PIM and LAM biosynthesis during inositol limitation. They also showed that under non-limiting conditions, PI is catabolized via lyso-PI. These data suggest that large pools of PI and apolar PIMs are not essential for membrane integrity but are required to sustain polar PIM biosynthesis, which is essential for mycobacterial growth.

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