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J Bacteriol. 1996 Jan;178(2):456-61.

Identification of the surface-exposed lipids on the cell envelopes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other mycobacterial species.

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Laboratoire de Pharmacologie et Toxicologie Fondamentales du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse, France.


The surface-exposed lipids of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium kansasii, Mycobacterium gastri, Mycobacterium smegmatis, and Mycobacterium aurum were isolated by gentle mechanical treatment of cells with glass beads. Analysis of the exposed lipids demonstrated a selective location of classes of ubiquitous lipids on the surfaces of mycobacteria. While phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol mannosides were exposed in all the species examined, dimycoloyl trehalose ("cord factor") was identified in the surface components of M. aurum only. Furthermore, monomycoloyl trehaloses and triacylglycerides were identified in the surface-exposed lipids of M. avium and M. smegmatis but not in those of the other mycobacterial species examined. The species- and type-species specific lipids were present on the mycobacterial cell surface: phenolic glycolipids, dimycocerosates of phthiocerols, and lipooligosaccharides were identified in the surface-exposed materials of M. tuberculosis (Canetti), M. kansasii, and M. gastri, whereas glycopeptidolipids were identified in the outermost lipid constituents of M. avium and M. smegmatis. This difference in the surface exposure of lipids of various mycobacterial species may reflect differences in their cell envelope organizations. Brief treatments of M. tuberculosis with Tween 80 prior to the use of glass beads led to erosion of regions of the capsule to expose gradually both cord factor and other lipids on the cell surface of the tubercle bacillus, demonstrating that the latter lipids are buried more deeply in the cell envelope and leading to the proposal of a scheme for the location of the capsular lipids of the tubercle bacillus.

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