Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiologic agent of tuberculosis (TB) in humans, continues to be a major health problem worldwide. Mycolic acids, one of the most important lipids of the outer membrane of mycobacteria, have been largely associated with bacterial virulence and antibiotic resistance and its biosynthesis pathway is one of the main targets for TB treatment. Biosynthesis of mycolic acids involves two structural distinct fatty acid synthase systems, FAS-I and FAS-II, which should work in a finely coordinate manner to keep lipid homeostasis tightly regulated. The main goal of this proposal is to understand how mycobacteria exert this exquisite control over the biosynthesis of their membrane lipids and find out the key components of the regulatory network that control fatty acid and mycolic acid biosynthesis at the transcriptional level. To achieve these goals we propose to use a multidisciplinary approach including genetic analysis of conditional mutant strains in fas and mabR (the transcriptional regulator of the main fasII operon), both in Mycobacterium smegmatis and M. tuberculosis, the identification and characterization of the metabolic signals that are sensed by MabR and any other regulatory proteins involved in the FAS-I/FAS-II regulatory network, by using biochemical and spectroscopic techniques, and finally the determination of MabR structure by X-ray crystallography. A better understanding of this complex process of regulation of lipid homeostasis in mycobacteria will greatly contribute to the development of new strategies to control this disease, including the design or identification of compounds that could deregulate fatty acid biosynthesis and induce bacterial death.

Public Health Relevance

Since fatty acid biosynthesis is essential and energetically expensive, organisms have developed mechanisms that maintain the concentration of lipids tightly regulated. In M. tuberculosis, the etiological agent of tuberculosis, fatty acid biosynthesis is even more relevant since these molecules are also the precursors of other more complex lipids, the mycolic acids, which are essential for conferring virulence and antibiotic resistance to these organisms. Biosynthesis of these metabolic pathways needs to be tightly regulated and disruption of this regulation should be highly damaging for cell survival. Our project proposes to identify and characterize all the components of this complex net of regulation and hopefully identify new drug targets that could act by globally affecting lipid metabolism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Lacourciere, Karen A
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Institute of Molecular /Cellular Biology
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Gago, Gabriela; Diacovich, Lautaro; Gramajo, Hugo (2018) Lipid metabolism and its implication in mycobacteria-host interaction. Curr Opin Microbiol 41:36-42
Cabruja, Matías; Mondino, Sonia; Tsai, Yi Ting et al. (2017) A conditional mutant of the fatty acid synthase unveils unexpected cross talks in mycobacterial lipid metabolism. Open Biol 7:
Bazet Lyonnet, Bernardo; Diacovich, Lautaro; Gago, Gabriela et al. (2017) Functional reconstitution of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis long-chain acyl-CoA carboxylase from multiple acyl-CoA subunits. FEBS J 284:1110-1125
Tsai, Yi Ting; Salzman, Valentina; Cabruja, Matías et al. (2017) Role of long-chain acyl-CoAs in the regulation of mycolic acid biosynthesis in mycobacteria. Open Biol 7:
Cabruja, Matías; Lyonnet, Bernardo Bazet; Millán, Gustavo et al. (2016) Analysis of coenzyme A activated compounds in actinomycetes. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:7239-48
Bazet Lyonnet, Bernardo; Diacovich, Lautaro; Cabruja, Matías et al. (2014) Pleiotropic effect of AccD5 and AccE5 depletion in acyl-coenzyme A carboxylase activity and in lipid biosynthesis in mycobacteria. PLoS One 9:e99853
Mondino, S; Gago, G; Gramajo, H (2013) Transcriptional regulation of fatty acid biosynthesis in mycobacteria. Mol Microbiol 89:372-87