Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli exhibit cell wall alterations during in vivo growth. Development of ultrasensitive analytical techniques with high specificities is required to analyze the cell wall of M. tuberculosis isolated from experimental animals because of the low amounts of bacteria available and contamination by host tissue. Here we present a novel methodology to analyze all three major components (mycolic acids, arabinogalactan, and peptidoglycan) of the mycobacterial cell wall from mycobacteria isolated from animal tissue. In this procedure, the cell wall carbohydrates are analyzed by gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (GC/MS/MS) of alditol acetates, the peptidoglycan by GC/MS (mass spectrometry) analysis of the unique amino acid diaminopimelic acid (after derivatization with isopropyl chloroformate), and the mycolic acids by liquid chromatography (LC)/MS (negative ion) without derivatization. The procedure was designed so that all three analyses could be performed starting with a single sample given the difficulty of preparing multiple aliquots in known ratios. Linkage analysis, including an enantiomeric specific procedure, of the arabinogalactan polymer is also presented. These procedures will enable the determination of the cell wall alterations known to occur in the important nongrowing "dormant" M. tuberculosis present during disease. With some adaptations, the methodology is also applicable to the analysis of small amounts of in vivo grown bacteria of other species.
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