Prioritizing genomic drug targets in pathogens: application to Mycobacterium tuberculosis

PLoS Comput Biol. 2006 Jun 9;2(6):e61. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020061. Epub 2006 Jun 9.


We have developed a software program that weights and integrates specific properties on the genes in a pathogen so that they may be ranked as drug targets. We applied this software to produce three prioritized drug target lists for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, a disease for which a new drug is desperately needed. Each list is based on an individual criterion. The first list prioritizes metabolic drug targets by the uniqueness of their roles in the M. tuberculosis metabolome ("metabolic chokepoints") and their similarity to known "druggable" protein classes (i.e., classes whose activity has previously been shown to be modulated by binding a small molecule). The second list prioritizes targets that would specifically impair M. tuberculosis, by weighting heavily those that are closely conserved within the Actinobacteria class but lack close homology to the host and gut flora. M. tuberculosis can survive asymptomatically in its host for many years by adapting to a dormant state referred to as "persistence." The final list aims to prioritize potential targets involved in maintaining persistence in M. tuberculosis. The rankings of current, candidate, and proposed drug targets are highlighted with respect to these lists. Some features were found to be more accurate than others in prioritizing studied targets. It can also be shown that targets can be prioritized by using evolutionary programming to optimize the weights of each desired property. We demonstrate this approach in prioritizing persistence targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Industry
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods
  • Software*
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations