To understand the adaptation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to the intracellular environment, we used comprehensive metabolite profiling to identify the biochemical pathways utilized during growth on cholesterol, a critical carbon source during chronic infection. Metabolic alterations observed during cholesterol catabolism centered on propionyl-CoA and pyruvate pools. Consequently, growth on this substrate required the transcriptional induction of the propionyl-CoA-assimilating methylcitrate cycle (MCC) enzymes, via the Rv1129c regulatory protein. We show that both Rv1129c and the MCC enzymes are required for intracellular growth in macrophages and that the growth defect of MCC mutants is largely attributable to the degradation of host-derived cholesterol. Together, these observations define a coordinated transcriptional and metabolic adaptation that is required for scavenging carbon during intracellular growth.
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