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Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2014 Mar;94(2):170-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Jan 2.

Role of the Mce1 transporter in the lipid homeostasis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Instituto de Biotecnología, CICVyA - INTA, N. Repetto and De los Reseros, Hurlingham 1686, Argentina.
Mycobacteria Research Laboratories, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1682, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 609 Bevill Biomedical Research Building, 845 19th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.
Instituto de Biotecnología, CICVyA - INTA, N. Repetto and De los Reseros, Hurlingham 1686, Argentina. Electronic address:


Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of mortality throughout the world. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human tuberculosis, has developed several strategies involving proteins and other compounds known collectively as virulence factors to subvert human host defences and invade the human host. The Mce proteins are among these virulence-related proteins and are encoded by the mce1, mce2, mce3 and mce4 operons in the genome of M. tuberculosis. It has been proposed that these operons encode ABC-like lipid transporters; however, the nature of their substrates has only been revealed in the case of the Mce4 proteins. Here we found that the knockout of the mce1 operon alters the lipid profile of M. tuberculosis H37Rv and the uptake of palmitic acid. Thin layer chromatography and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis showed that the mce1 mutant accumulates more mycolic acids than the wild type and complemented strains. Interestingly, this accumulation of mycolic acid is exacerbated when bacteria are cultured in the presence of palmitic acid or arachidonic acid. These results suggest that the mce1 operon may serve as a mycolic acid re-importer.


Lipids; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Mycolic acid; mce operon

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