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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 8;6(2):e16869. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016869.

Decaprenylphosphoryl-β-D-ribose 2'-epimerase, the target of benzothiazinones and dinitrobenzamides, is an essential enzyme in Mycobacterium smegmatis.

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Department of Microbiology, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Structural and Functional Microbial Genomics, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.



The unique cell wall of bacteria of the suborder Corynebacterineae is essential for the growth and survival of significant human pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. Drug resistance in mycobacteria is an increasingly common development, making identification of new antimicrobials a priority. Recent studies have revealed potent anti-mycobacterial compounds, the benzothiazinones and dinitrobenzamides, active against DprE1, a subunit of decaprenylphosphoribose 2' epimerase which forms decaprenylphosphoryl arabinose, the arabinose donor for mycobacterial cell wall biosynthesis. Despite the exploitation of Mycobacterium smegmatis in the identification of DprE1 as the target of these new antimicrobials and its use in the exploration of mechanisms of resistance, the essentiality of DprE1 in this species has never been examined. Indeed, direct experimental evidence of the essentiality of DprE1 has not been obtained in any species of mycobacterium.


In this study we constructed a conditional gene knockout strain targeting the ortholog of dprE1 in M. smegmatis, MSMEG_6382. Disruption of the chromosomal copy of MSMEG_6382 was only possible in the presence of a plasmid-encoded copy of MSMEG_6382. Curing of this "rescue" plasmid from the bacterial population resulted in a cessation of growth, demonstrating gene essentiality.


This study provides the first direct experimental evidence for the essentiality of DprE1 in mycobacteria. The essentiality of DprE1 in M. smegmatis, combined with its conservation in all sequenced mycobacterial genomes, suggests that decaprenylphosphoryl arabinose synthesis is essential in all mycobacteria. Our findings indicate a lack of redundancy in decaprenylphosphoryl arabinose synthesis in M. smegmatis, despite the relatively large coding capacity of this species, and suggest that no alternative arabinose donors for cell wall biosynthesis exist. Overall, this study further validates DprE1 as a promising target for new anti-mycobacterial drugs.

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