M. tuberculosis (Mtb) is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and claims millions of lives annually. Approximately ~1.7 billion people worldwide are asymptomatically infected with the tubercle bacillus and constitute a major impediment to worldwide public health control measures. Previous work had shown that a point mutation (Arg515->His) in the 4.2 domain of RpoV, the principal sigma factor in Mycobacterium bovis, is attenuating. Mice infected with MtbwhiB3 showed significantly longer survival times than mice infected with the wild type Mtb. In addition, the lungs of MtbwhiB3-infected mice appeared much less adversely affected. Recent studies have shown that WhiB3 is a 4Fe-4S cluster protein and initiates the metabolic switchover to the preferred in vivo carbon source, fatty acids. We hypothesize that WhiB3 is an intracellular redox sensor that maintains redox homeostasis. To better understand the mechanism of this physiological event, we will identify the WhiB3 amino acids necessary for effective iron-sulfur (Fe-S) reconstitution, and use electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR) to characterize these mutated proteins. We will use genome-wide expression profiling to examine the contribution of WhiB3 in maintaining redox homeostasis, and analyze the metabolite profile of MtbwhiB3. These studies will characterize WhiB3 as a potential target for interventions that may abolish virulence, but not growth. These studies will also provide insight into understanding how Mtb subvert host immunity.
The ability of small numbers of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to lay dormant in humans without causing disease is central to the biology of the disease. We will examine how Mtb enters a persistent state, and hope to translate this knowledge into new interventions to reduce tuberculosis.
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