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Nature. 2005 Jul 21;436(7049):406-9.

Regulation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell envelope composition and virulence by intramembrane proteolysis.

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Immunology Program, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is a continuing global health crisis that kills 2 million people each year. Although the structurally diverse lipids of the M. tuberculosis cell envelope each have non-redundant roles in virulence or persistence, the molecular mechanisms regulating cell envelope composition in M. tuberculosis are undefined. In higher eukaryotes, membrane composition is controlled by site two protease (S2P)-mediated cleavage of sterol regulatory element binding proteins, membrane-bound transcription factors that control lipid biosynthesis. S2P is the founding member of a widely distributed family of membrane metalloproteases that cleave substrate proteins within transmembrane segments. Here we show that a previously uncharacterized M. tuberculosis S2P homologue (Rv2869c) regulates M. tuberculosis cell envelope composition, growth in vivo and persistence in vivo. These results establish that regulated intramembrane proteolysis is a conserved mechanism controlling membrane composition in prokaryotes and show that this proteolysis is a proximal regulator of cell envelope virulence determinants in M. tuberculosis.

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