One of several roles of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteasome is to defend against host-produced nitric oxide (NO), a free radical that can damage numerous biological macromolecules. Mutations that inactivate proteasomal degradation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis result in bacteria that are hypersensitive to NO and attenuated for growth in vivo, but it was not known why. To elucidate the link between proteasome function, NO resistance, and pathogenesis, we screened for suppressors of NO hypersensitivity in a mycobacterial proteasome ATPase mutant and identified mutations in Rv1205. We determined that Rv1205 encodes a pupylated proteasome substrate. Rv1205 is a homolog of the plant enzyme LONELY GUY, which catalyzes the production of hormones called cytokinins. Remarkably, we report that an obligate human pathogen secretes several cytokinins. Finally, we determined that the Rv1205-dependent accumulation of cytokinin breakdown products is likely responsible for the sensitization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteasome-associated mutants to NO.
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