Simultaneous analysis of multiple Mycobacterium tuberculosis knockdown mutants in vitro and in vivo

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 22;5(12):e15667. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015667.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) represents one of the most persistent bacterial threats to human health and new drugs are needed to limit its impact. Conditional knockdown mutants can help validate new drug targets, but the analysis of individual mutants is laborious and time consuming. Here, we describe quantitative DNA tags (qTags) and their use to simultaneously analyze conditional Mtb knockdown mutants that allowed silencing the glyoxylate and methylcitrate cycles (via depletion of isocitrate lyase, ICL), the serine protease Rv3671c, and the core subunits of the mycobacterial proteasome, PrcB and PrcA. The impact of gene silencing in multi-strain cultures was determined by measuring the relative abundance of mutant-specific qTags with real-time PCR. This achieved accurate quantification over a broad range of qTag abundances and depletion of ICL, Rv3671c, or PrcBA resulted in the expected impairment of growth of Mtb with butyrate as the primary carbon source, survival during oxidative stress, acid stress and starvation. The impact of depleting ICL, Rv3671c, or PrcBA in multi-strain mouse infections was analyzed with two approaches. We first measured the relative abundance of mutant-specific qTags in total chromosomal DNA isolated from bacteria that were recovered from infected lungs on agar plates. We then developed a two-step amplification procedure, which allowed us to measure the abundances of individual mutants directly in infected lung tissue. Both strategies confirmed that inactivation of Rv3671c and PrcBA severely reduced persistence of Mtb in mice. The multi-strain infections furthermore suggested that silencing ICL not only prevented growth of Mtb during acute infections but also prevented survival of Mtb during chronic infections. Analyses of the ICL knockdown mutant in single-strain infections confirmed this and demonstrated that silencing of ICL during chronic infections impaired persistence of Mtb to the extent that the pathogen was cleared from the lungs of most mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Female
  • Genetic Techniques
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex