Lipoprotein processing is required for virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Jun;52(6):1543-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04041.x.


Lipoproteins are a subgroup of secreted bacterial proteins characterized by a lipidated N-terminus, processing of which is mediated by the consecutive activity of prolipoprotein diacylglyceryl transferase (Lgt) and lipoprotein signal peptidase (LspA). The study of LspA function has been limited mainly to non-pathogenic microorganisms. To study a potential role for LspA in the pathogenesis of bacterial infections, we have disrupted lspA by allelic replacement in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, one of the world's most devastating pathogens. Despite the presence of an impermeable lipid outer layer, it was found that LspA was dispensable for growth under in vitro culture conditions. In contrast, the mutant was markedly attenuated in virulence models of tuberculosis. Our findings establish lipoprotein metabolism as a major virulence determinant of tuberculosis and define a role for lipoprotein processing in bacterial pathogenesis. In addition, these results hint at a promising new target for therapeutic intervention, as a highly specific inhibitor of bacterial lipoprotein signal peptidases is available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity*
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Transferases / genetics
  • Transferases / metabolism*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis / pathology
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipoproteins
  • Protein Precursors
  • Transferases
  • phosphatidylglycerol glyceryl transferase
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • signal peptidase II