Oxidative Phosphorylation as a Target Space for Tuberculosis: Success, Caution, and Future Directions

Microbiol Spectr. 2017 Jun;5(3):10.1128/microbiolspec.TBTB2-0014-2016. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBTB2-0014-2016.


The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens, and our inability to develop new antimicrobials to combat resistance, have inspired scientists to seek out new targets for drug development. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex is a group of obligately aerobic bacteria that have specialized for inhabiting a wide range of intracellular and extracellular environments. Two fundamental features in this adaptation are the flexible utilization of energy sources and continued metabolism in the absence of growth. M. tuberculosis is an obligately aerobic heterotroph that depends on oxidative phosphorylation for growth and survival. However, several studies are redefining the metabolic breadth of the genus. Alternative electron donors and acceptors may provide the maintenance energy for the pathogen to maintain viability in hypoxic, nonreplicating states relevant to latent infection. This hidden metabolic flexibility may ultimately decrease the efficacy of drugs targeted against primary dehydrogenases and terminal oxidases. However, it may also open up opportunities to develop novel antimycobacterials targeting persister cells. In this review, we discuss the progress in understanding the role of energetic targets in mycobacterial physiology and pathogenesis and the opportunities for drug discovery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation / drug effects*
  • Oxidoreductases / drug effects
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Oxidoreductases