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Microbiology. 2011 Apr;157(Pt 4):1187-95. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.046557-0. Epub 2011 Feb 3.

Deletion of the mmpL4b gene in the Mycobacterium abscessus glycopeptidolipid biosynthetic pathway results in loss of surface colonization capability, but enhanced ability to replicate in human macrophages and stimulate their innate immune response.

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Inserm-U 1002, Groupe Avenir, Université Paris V-Descartes, Faculté de Médecine, Site Necker, F-75730 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Mycobacterium abscessus is considered to be the most virulent of the rapidly growing mycobacteria. Generation of bacterial gene knockout mutants has been a useful tool for studying factors that contribute to virulence of pathogenic bacteria. Until recently, the optimal genetic approach to generation of M. abscessus gene knockout mutants was not clear. Based on the recent identification of genetic recombineering as the preferred approach, a M. abscessus mutant was generated in which the gene mmpL4b, critical to glycopeptidolipid synthesis, was deleted. Compared to the previously well-characterized parental strain 390S, the mmpL4B deletion mutant had lost sliding motility and the ability to form biofilm, but acquired the ability to replicate in human macrophages and stimulate macrophage Toll-like receptor 2. This study demonstrates that deletion of a gene associated with expression of a cell-wall lipid can result in acquisition of an immunostimulatory, invasive bacterial phenotype and has important implications for the study of M. abscessus pathogenesis at the cellular level.

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