Biosynthesis of the arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan complex of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Glycobiology. 2001 Sep;11(9):107R-118R. doi: 10.1093/glycob/11.9.107r.


The compositional complexity of the mycobacterial cell envelope differentiates Mycobacterium species from most other prokaryotes. Historically, research in this area has focused on the elucidation of the structure of the mycobacterial cell envelope with the result that the structures of the mycolic acid-arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan complex from M. tuberculosis are fairly well understood. However, the current impetus for studying M. tuberculosis and other pathogenic mycobacteria is the need to identify targets for the development of new drugs. Therefore, emphasis has been shifting to the study of cell envelope biosynthesis and the identification of enzymes that are essential to the viability of M. tuberculosis. The publication of the complete M. tuberculosis genome in 1998 has greatly aided these studies. To date, thirteen enzymes involved in the synthesis of the arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan complex of M. tuberculosis have been identified and at least partially characterized. Eleven of these enzymes were reported subsequent to the publication of the M. tuberculosis genome, a clear indication of the rapid evolution of knowledge stimulated by the sequencing of the genome. In this article we review the current understanding of M. tuberculosis arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan structure and biosynthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Galactans / biosynthesis*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Peptidoglycan / biosynthesis*
  • Peptidoglycan / chemistry


  • Galactans
  • Peptidoglycan
  • arabinogalactan