Disruption of msl3 Abolishes the Synthesis of Mycolipanoic and Mycolipenic Acids Required for Polyacyltrehalose Synthesis in Mycobacterium Tuberculosis H37Rv and Causes Cell Aggregation

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Sep;45(5):1451-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.03119.x.


Cell wall lipids of Mycobacterium tuberculosis containing multiple methylbranched fatty acids play critical roles in pathogenesis and thus offer targets for new antimycobacterial drugs. Mycocerosicacid synthase gene (mas) encodes the enzyme that produces one class of such acids. Seven mas-like genes (msls) were identified in the genome. One of them, msl3, originally annotated as two separate genes, pks 3 and pks 4, is now shown to constitute a single open reading frame, which encodes a 220.3 kDa protein. Msl3 was disrupted using a phage mediated delivery system and the gene replacement in the mutant was confirmed by polymerase chain reaction analysis of the flanking regions of the introduced disrupted gene and by Southern analysis. Biochemical analysis showed that the msl3 mutant does not produce mycolipanoic acids and mycolipenic(phthienoic) acids, the major constituents of polyacyl trehaloses and thus lacks this cell wall lipid, but synthesizes all of the other classes of lipids. The absence of the major acyl chains that anchor the surface-exposed acyltrehaloses causes a novel growth morphology; the cells stick to each other, most probably via the intercellular interaction between the exposed hydrophobic cell surfaces, manifesting a bead-like growth morphology without affecting the overall growth rate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / genetics*
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Glycolipids / biosynthesis*
  • Membrane Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / cytology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycolipids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Acyltransferases
  • mycocerosic acid synthase