Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most frightening health problems facing the world today and the outlook for the TB crisis is ominous as a result of the TB-HIV syndemic and increasing reports of multiply, extensively and even totally drug resistant (MDR, XDR, TDR) Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) strains. New drugs that target novel Mtb pathways are desperately needed. All bacteria possess a highly conserved Sec pathway that exports proteins from the cytoplasm to the bacterial cell envelope or host environment. Among the proteins exported by the Sec system are proteins with essential functions or roles in virulence, making the Sec pathway an attractive drug target. One of the central components of the Sec pathway is the SecA ATPase that provides energy from ATP hydrolysis to drive protein translocation across the membrane. There are no mammalian homologues of SecA, which makes it an appealing target. Like other bacteria, Mtb has a functional Sec pathway. In mycobacteria, the canonical SecA is named SecA1. The goals of the R21 phase of this two stage proposal are to definitively prove Mtb SecA1 is essential for Mtb growth and survival in vitro and during in vivo infection, using conditional Mtb secA1 mutants. Also as part of the R21 phase, we will develop whole-cell assays that can be used in quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) for identifying inhibitors of Mtb SecA1. In the R33 phase of the project, we will automate and validate the qHTS assays and undertake pilot screening to assess assay performance as measured by the ability to identify compounds that inhibit Mtb SecA1. We will additionally solve the structure of a small set of inhibitors bound to Mtb SecA1 as a way to help understand inhibitor mode of action. The proposed work will validate Mtb SecA1 as a new drug target and, because SecA is highly conserved among bacteria, the results may also aid future drug design directed at SecA targets of other drug-resistant bacterial pathogens.

Public Health Relevance

With the rise in drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) strains, the need to develop new drugs for tuberculosis is greater than ever. The research in this proposal will assess the potential of targeting a novel pathway for Mtb drug development: the Mtb Sec export pathway. More specifically, we will investigate the potential of targeting the SecA1 component of the pathway. Because SecA proteins are conserved throughout bacteria, the results of this study may also aid efforts to develop new drugs for other bacterial pathogens.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1-SM-M (J2))
Program Officer
Boyce, Jim P
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
Zip Code