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FEBS J. 2007 Apr;274(8):1957-69. Epub 2007 Mar 19.

Molecular dissection of the biosynthetic relationship between phthiocerol and phthiodiolone dimycocerosates and their critical role in the virulence and permeability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Département Mécanismes Moléculaires des Infections Mycobactériennes, Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale, Toulouse, France.


Phthiocerol dimycocerosates and related compounds are important molecules in the biology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, playing a key role in the permeability barrier and in pathogenicity. Both phthiocerol dimycocerosates, the major compounds, and phthiodiolone dimycocerosates, the minor constituents, are found in the cell envelope of M. tuberculosis, but their specific roles in the biology of the tubercle bacillus have not been established yet. According to the current model of their biosynthesis, phthiocerol is produced from phthiodiolone through a two-step process in which the keto group is first reduced and then methylated. We have previously identified the methyltransferase enzyme that is involved in this process, encoded by the gene Rv2952 in M. tuberculosis. In this study, we report the construction and biochemical analyses of an M. tuberculosis strain mutated in gene Rv2951c. This mutation prevents the formation of phthiocerol and phenolphthiocerol derivatives, but leads to the accumulation of phthiodiolone dimycocerosates and glycosylated phenolphthiodiolone dimycocerosates. These results provide the formal evidence that Rv2951c encodes the ketoreductase catalyzing the reduction of phthiodiolone and phenolphthiodiolone to yield phthiotriol and phenolphthiotriol, which are the substrates of the methyltransferase encoded by gene Rv2952. We also compared the resistance to SDS and replication in mice of the Rv2951c mutant, deficient in synthesis of phthiocerol dimycocerosates but producing phthiodiolone dimycocerosates, with those of a wild-type strain and a mutant without phthiocerol and phthiodiolone dimycocerosates. The results established the functional redundancy between phthiocerol and phthiodiolone dimycocerosates in both the protection of the mycobacterial cell and the pathogenicity of M. tuberculosis in mice.

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