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Mol Microbiol. 2014 Oct;94(1):56-69. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12688. Epub 2014 Jul 13.

Slow growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis at acidic pH is regulated by phoPR and host-associated carbon sources.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824, USA.


During pathogenesis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) colonizes environments, such as the macrophage or necrotic granuloma, that are acidic and rich in cholesterol and fatty acids. The goal of this study was to examine how acidic pH and available carbon sources interact to regulate Mtb physiology. Here we report that Mtb growth at acidic pH requires host-associated carbon sources that function at the intersection of glycolysis and the TCA cycle, such as pyruvate, acetate, oxaloacetate and cholesterol. In contrast, in other tested carbon sources, Mtb fully arrests its growth at acidic pH and establishes a state of non-replicating persistence. Growth-arrested Mtb is resuscitated by the addition of pyruvate suggesting that growth arrest is due to a pH-dependent checkpoint on metabolism. Additionally, we demonstrate that the phoPR two-component regulatory system is required to slow Mtb growth at acidic pH and functions to maintain redox homeostasis. Transcriptional profiling and functional metabolic studies demonstrate that signals from acidic pH and carbon source are integrated to remodel pathways associated with anaplerotic central metabolism, lipid anabolism and the regeneration of oxidized cofactors. Because phoPR is required for Mtb virulence in animals, we suggest that pH-driven adaptation may be critical to Mtb pathogenesis.

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