An oxidative environment promotes growth of Mycobacterium abscessus

Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1666-73. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2010.08.026. Epub 2010 Aug 31.


Mycobacterium abscessus infections, particularly those causing chronic lung diseases, are becoming more prevalent worldwide. M. abscessus infections are difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance. Thus, new treatment options are urgently needed. M. abscessus is an intracellular pathogen that primarily infects macrophages and fibroblasts. Because this bacterium has only recently been identified as a separate species, very little is known about M. abscessus-host interactions and how M. abscessus growth is regulated. Oxidative stress has long been shown to inhibit the growth of bacterial organisms. However, some intracellular bacteria, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, grow well in oxidizing environments. In this study, we show that M. abscessus infection causes the host cell environment to become more oxidizing. Furthermore, we show that a more oxidizing environment leads to enhanced growth of M. abscessus inside macrophages. In the presence of antioxidants, MnTE-2-PyP (chemical name: manganese(II) meso-tetrakis-(N-methylpyridinium-2-yl) porphyrin) or N-acetyl-l-cysteine, M. abscessus growth is inhibited. These results lead us to postulate that antioxidants may aid in the treatment of M. abscessus infections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Down-Regulation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Environment
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium / growth & development*
  • Mycobacterium / physiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections / genetics
  • Mycobacterium Infections / metabolism
  • Mycobacterium Infections / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Acetylcysteine