Small organic molecules targeting the energy metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Eur J Med Chem. 2021 Feb 15:212:113139. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2020.113139. Epub 2020 Dec 29.


Causing approximately 10 million incident cases and 1.3-1.5 million deaths every year, Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains a global health problem. The risk is further exacerbated with latent tuberculosis (TB) infection, the HIV pandemic, and increasing anti-TB drug resistance. Therefore, unexplored chemical scaffolds directed towards new molecular targets are increasingly desired. In this context, mycobacterial energy metabolism, particularly the oxidative phosphorylation (OP) pathway, is gaining importance. Mycobacteria possess primary dehydrogenases to fuel electron transport; aa3-type cytochrome c oxidase and bd-type menaquinol oxidase to generate a protonmotive force; and ATP synthase, which is essential for both growing mycobacteria as well as dormant mycobacteria because ATP is produced under both aerobic and hypoxic conditions. Small organic molecules targeting OP are active against latent TB as well as resistant TB strains. FDA approval of the ATP synthase inhibitor bedaquiline and the discovery of clinical candidate Q203, which both interfere with the cytochrome bc1 complex, have already confirmed mycobacterial energy metabolism to be a valuable anti-TB drug target. This review highlights both preferable molecular targets within mycobacterial OP and promising small organic molecules targeting OP. Progressive research in the area of mycobacterial OP revealed several highly potent anti-TB compounds with nanomolar-range MICs as low as 0.004 μM against Mtb H37Rv. Therefore, we are convinced that targeting the OP pathway can combat resistant TB and latent TB, leading to more efficient anti-TB chemotherapy.

Keywords: ATP synthase; Inhibitors; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Oxidative phosphorylation; QcrB.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / chemistry
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Organic Chemicals / pharmacology*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis / metabolism


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Small Molecule Libraries