A pantothenate auxotroph of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is highly attenuated and protects mice against tuberculosis

Nat Med. 2002 Oct;8(10):1171-4. doi: 10.1038/nm765. Epub 2002 Sep 9.


With the advent of HIV and the widespread emergence of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, newer control strategies in the form of a better vaccine could decrease the global incidence of tuberculosis. A desirable trait in an effective live attenuated vaccine strain is an ability to persist within the host in a limited fashion in order to produce important protective antigens in vivo. Attenuated M. tuberculosis vaccine candidates have been constructed by deleting genes required for growth in mice. These candidate vaccines did not elicit adequate protective immunity in animal models, due to their inability to persist sufficiently long within the host tissues. Here we report that an auxotrophic mutant of M. tuberculosis defective in the de novo biosynthesis of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is highly attenuated in immunocompromised SCID mice and in immunocompetent BALB/c mice. SCID mice infected with the pantothenate auxotroph survived significantly longer (250 days) than mice infected with either bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine or virulent M. tuberculosis (77 and 35 days, respectively). Subcutaneous immunization with this auxotroph conferred protection in C57BL/6J mice against an aerosol challenge with virulent M. tuberculosis, which was comparable with that afforded by BCG vaccination. Our findings highlight the importance of de novo pantothenate biosynthesis in limiting the intracellular survival and pathogenesis of M. tuberculosis without reducing its immunogenicity in vaccinated mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Pantothenic Acid / metabolism*
  • Survival Rate
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / pathology
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control*
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines*
  • Vaccines, Attenuated


  • Tuberculosis Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Pantothenic Acid