Ectopic Expression of Rv0023 Mediates Isoniazid/Ethionamide Tolerance via Altering NADH/NAD + Levels in Mycobacterium smegmatis

Front Microbiol. 2020 Feb 7;11:3. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.00003. eCollection 2020.


Tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) accounts for nearly 1.2 million deaths per annum worldwide. Due to the emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) Mtb strains, TB, a curable and avertable disease, remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Isoniazid (INH) is a first-line anti-TB drug while ethionamide (ETH) is used as a second-line anti-TB drug. INH and ETH resistance develop through a network of genes involved in various biosynthetic pathways. In this study, we identified Rv0023, an Mtb protein belonging to the xenobiotic response element (XRE) family of transcription regulators, which has a role in generating higher tolerance toward INH and ETH in Mycobacterium smegmatis (Msmeg). Overexpression of Rv0023 in Msmeg leads to the development of INH- and ETH-tolerant strains. The strains expressing Rv0023 have a higher ratio of NADH/NAD+, and this physiological event is known to play a crucial role in the development of INH/ETH co-resistance in Msmeg. Gene expression analysis of some target genes revealed reduction in the expression of the ndh gene, but no direct interaction was observed between Rv0023 and the ndh promoter region. Rv0023 is divergently expressed to Rv0022c (whiB5) and we observed a direct interaction between the recombinant Rv0023 protein with the upstream region of Rv0022c, confirmed using reporter constructs of Msmeg. However, we found no indication that this interaction might play a role in the development of INH/ETH drug tolerance.

Keywords: XRE family of protein; ethionamide resistance; isoniazid resistance; transcription regulation; whiB5.