In this work we describe the identification of a copper-inducible regulon in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Among the regulated genes was Rv0190/MT0200, a paralogue of the copper metalloregulatory repressor CsoR. The five-locus regulon, which includes a gene that encodes the copper-protective metallothionein MymT, was highly induced in wild-type Mtb treated with copper, and highly expressed in an Rv0190/MT0200 mutant. Importantly, the Rv0190/MT0200 mutant was hyper-resistant to copper. The promoters of all five loci share a palindromic motif that was recognized by the gene product of Rv0190/MT0200. For this reason we named Rv0190/MT0200 RicR for regulated in copper repressor. Intriguingly, several of the RicR-regulated genes, including MymT, are unique to pathogenic Mycobacteria. The identification of a copper-responsive regulon specific to virulent mycobacterial species suggests copper homeostasis must be maintained during an infection. Alternatively, copper may provide a cue for the expression of genes unrelated to metal homeostasis, but nonetheless necessary for survival in a host.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.