System-Wide Analysis Unravels the Differential Regulation and In Vivo Essentiality of Virulence-Associated Proteins B and C Toxin-Antitoxin Systems of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

J Infect Dis. 2018 May 5;217(11):1809-1820. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiy109.


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are bicistronic genetic modules that are ubiquitously present in bacterial genomes. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome encodes 90 putative TA systems, and these are considered to be associated with maintenance of bacterial genomic stability or bacterial survival under unfavorable environmental conditions. The majority of these in M. tuberculosis have been annotated as belonging to the virulence-associated protein B and C (VapBC) family. However, their precise role in bacterial physiology has not been elucidated. Here, we functionally characterized VapC toxins from M. tuberculosis and show that overexpression of some homologs inhibits growth of Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin in a bacteriostatic manner. Expression profiling of messenger RNA revealed that these VapC toxins were differentially induced upon exposure of M. tuberculosis to stress conditions. We also unraveled that transcriptional cross-activation exists between TA systems in M. tuberculosis. This study provides the first evidence for the essentiality of VapBC3 and VapBC4 systems in M. tuberculosis virulence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antitoxins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Toxin-Antitoxin Systems / genetics*
  • Virulence / genetics*


  • Antitoxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • RNA, Messenger