An Anaerobic-Type Alpha-Ketoglutarate Ferredoxin Oxidoreductase Completes the Oxidative Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

PLoS Pathog. 2009 Nov;5(11):e1000662. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000662. Epub 2009 Nov 20.


Aerobic organisms have a tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle that is functionally distinct from those found in anaerobic organisms. Previous reports indicate that the aerobic pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis lacks detectable alpha-ketoglutarate (KG) dehydrogenase activity and drives a variant TCA cycle in which succinyl-CoA is replaced by succinic semialdehyde. Here, we show that M. tuberculosis expresses a CoA-dependent KG dehydrogenase activity, albeit one that is typically found in anaerobic bacteria. Unlike most enzymes of this family, the M. tuberculosis KG: ferredoxin oxidoreductase (KOR) is extremely stable under aerobic conditions. This activity is absent in a mutant strain deleted for genes encoding a previously uncharacterized oxidoreductase, and this strain is impaired for aerobic growth in the absence of sufficient amounts of CO(2). Interestingly, inhibition of the glyoxylate shunt or exclusion of exogenous fatty acids alleviates this growth defect, indicating the presence of an alternate pathway that operates in the absence of beta-oxidation. Simultaneous disruption of KOR and the first enzyme of the succinic semialdehyde pathway (KG decarboxylase; KGD) results in strict dependence upon the glyoxylate shunt for growth, demonstrating that KG decarboxylase is also functional in M. tuberculosis intermediary metabolism. These observations demonstrate that unlike most organisms M. tuberculosis utilizes two distinct TCA pathways from KG, one that functions concurrently with beta-oxidation (KOR-dependent), and one that functions in the absence of beta-oxidation (KGD-dependent). As these pathways are regulated by metabolic cues, we predict that their differential utilization provides an advantage for growth in different environments within the host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis / physiology
  • Citric Acid Cycle / physiology*
  • Ketoglutarate Dehydrogenase Complex / physiology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pyruvate Synthase / physiology*


  • Ketoglutarate Dehydrogenase Complex
  • Pyruvate Synthase