Predicting nitroimidazole antibiotic resistance mutations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis with protein engineering

PLoS Pathog. 2020 Feb 7;16(2):e1008287. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008287. eCollection 2020 Feb.


Our inability to predict which mutations could result in antibiotic resistance has made it difficult to rapidly identify the emergence of resistance, identify pre-existing resistant populations, and manage our use of antibiotics to effectively treat patients and prevent or slow the spread of resistance. Here we investigated the potential for resistance against the new antitubercular nitroimidazole prodrugs pretomanid and delamanid to emerge in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB). Deazaflavin-dependent nitroreductase (Ddn) is the only identified enzyme within M. tuberculosis that activates these prodrugs, via an F420H2-dependent reaction. We show that the native menaquinone-reductase activity of Ddn is essential for emergence from hypoxia, which suggests that for resistance to spread and pose a threat to human health, the native activity of Ddn must be at least partially retained. We tested 75 unique mutations, including all known sequence polymorphisms identified among ~15,000 sequenced M. tuberculosis genomes. Several mutations abolished pretomanid and delamanid activation in vitro, without causing complete loss of the native activity. We confirmed that a transmissible M. tuberculosis isolate from the hypervirulent Beijing family already possesses one such mutation and is resistant to pretomanid, before being exposed to the drug. Notably, delamanid was still effective against this strain, which is consistent with structural analysis that indicates delamanid and pretomanid bind to Ddn differently. We suggest that the mutations identified in this work be monitored for informed use of delamanid and pretomanid treatment and to slow the emergence of resistance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Proteins* / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial* / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial* / genetics
  • Mutation*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis* / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis* / metabolism
  • Nitroimidazoles / pharmacology*
  • Nitroreductases* / genetics
  • Nitroreductases* / metabolism
  • Oxazoles / pharmacology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protein Engineering*


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Nitroimidazoles
  • OPC-67683
  • Oxazoles
  • pretomanid
  • Nitroreductases