Fluorescent Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Reporters: Illuminating Host-Pathogen Interactions

Pathog Dis. 2018 Apr 1;76(3):fty017. doi: 10.1093/femspd/fty017.


The pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is intrinsically linked to its intimate and enduring interaction with its host, and understanding Mtb-host interactions at a molecular level is critical to attempts to decrease the significant burden of tuberculosis disease. The marked heterogeneity that exists in lesion progression and outcome during Mtb infection necessitates the development of methods that enable in situ analyses of Mtb biology and host response within the spatial context of tissue structure. Fluorescent reporter Mtb strains have thus come to the forefront as an approach with broad utility for the study of the Mtb-host interface, enabling visualization of the bacteria during infection, and contributing to the discovery of several facets such as non-uniformity in microenvironments and Mtb physiology in vivo, and their relation to the host immune response or therapeutic intervention. We review here the different types of fluorescent reporters and ways in which they have been utilized in Mtb studies, and expand on how they may further be exploited in combination with novel imaging and other methodologies to illuminate key aspects of Mtb-host interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Tracking / methods
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Reporter*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / ultrastructure
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / microbiology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mycobacterium / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium / genetics
  • Mycobacterium / metabolism*
  • Mycobacterium / ultrastructure
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / ultrastructure
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / pathology


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Cyan Fluorescent Protein
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • fluorescent protein 583
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins