Tuberculosis claims >1 million lives annually, and its causative agent Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a highly successful pathogen. Protein kinase B (PknB) is reported to be critical for mycobacterial growth. Here, we demonstrate that PknB-depleted M. tuberculosis can replicate normally and can synthesize peptidoglycan in an osmoprotective medium. Comparative phosphoproteomics of PknB-producing and PknB-depleted mycobacteria identify CwlM, an essential regulator of peptidoglycan synthesis, as a major PknB substrate. Our complementation studies of a cwlM mutant of M. tuberculosis support CwlM phosphorylation as a likely molecular basis for PknB being essential for mycobacterial growth. We demonstrate that growing mycobacteria produce two forms of CwlM: a non-phosphorylated membrane-associated form and a PknB-phosphorylated cytoplasmic form. Furthermore, we show that the partner proteins for the phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated forms of CwlM are FhaA, a fork head-associated domain protein, and MurJ, a proposed lipid II flippase, respectively. From our results, we propose a model in which CwlM potentially regulates both the biosynthesis of peptidoglycan precursors and their transport across the cytoplasmic membrane.
Keywords: CwlM; MurJ; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; cellular localization; peptidoglycan; phosphoproteomics; protein kinase B; serine/threonine protein kinase.
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