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Infection and immunity

Mycobacterial gene cuvA is required for optimal nutrient utilization and virulence.


PMID 25047842

Abstract

To persist and cause disease in the host, Mycobacterium tuberculosis must adapt to its environment during infection. Adaptations include changes in nutrient utilization and alterations in growth rate. M. tuberculosis Rv1422 is a conserved gene of unknown function that was found in a genetic screen to interact with the mce4 cholesterol uptake locus. The Rv1422 protein is phosphorylated by the M. tuberculosis Ser/Thr kinases PknA and PknB, which regulate cell growth and cell wall synthesis. Bacillus subtilis strains lacking the Rv1422 homologue yvcK grow poorly on several carbon sources, and yvcK is required for proper localization of peptidoglycan synthesis. Here we show that Mycobacterium smegmatis and M. tuberculosis strains lacking Rv1422 have growth defects in minimal medium containing limiting amounts of several different carbon sources. These strains also have morphological abnormalities, including shortened and bulging cells, suggesting a cell wall defect. In both mycobacterial species, the Rv1422 protein localizes uniquely to the growing cell pole, the site of peptidoglycan synthesis in mycobacteria. An M. tuberculosis ΔRv1422 strain is markedly attenuated for virulence in a mouse infection model, where it elicits decreased inflammation in the lungs and shows impaired bacterial persistence. These findings led us to name this gene cuvA (carbon utilization and virulence protein A) and to suggest a model in which deletion of cuvA leads to changes in nutrient uptake and/or metabolism that affect cell wall structure, morphology, and virulence. Its role in virulence suggests that CuvA may be a useful target for novel inhibitors of M. tuberculosis during infection.