Lipid droplets and the transcriptome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from direct sputa: a literature review

Lipids Health Dis. 2021 Oct 3;20(1):129. doi: 10.1186/s12944-021-01550-5.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the main etiology of tuberculosis (TB), is predominantly an intracellular pathogen that has caused infection, disease and death in humans for centuries. Lipid droplets (LDs) are dynamic intracellular organelles that are found across the evolutionary tree of life. This review is an evaluation of the current state of knowledge regarding Mtb-LD formation and associated Mtb transcriptome directly from sputa.Based on the LD content, Mtb in sputum may be classified into three groups: LD positive, LD negative and LD borderline. However, the clinical and evolutionary importance of each state is not well elaborated. Mounting evidence supports the view that the presence of LD positive Mtb bacilli in sputum is a biomarker of slow growth, low energy state, towards lipid degradation, and drug tolerance. In Mtb, LD may serve as a source of chemical energy, scavenger of toxic compounds, prevent destruction of Mtb through autophagy, delay trafficking of lysosomes towards the phagosome, and contribute to Mtb persistence. It is suggest that LD is a key player in the induction of a spectrum of phenotypic and metabolic states of Mtb in the macrophage, granuloma and extracellular sputum microenvironment. Tuberculosis patients with high proportion of LD positive Mtb in pretreatment sputum was associated with higher rate of poor treatment outcome, indicating that LD may have a clinical application in predicting treatment outcome.The propensity for LD formation among Mtb lineages is largely unknown. The role of LD on Mtb transmission and disease phenotype (pulmonary TB vs extra-pulmonary TB) is not well understood. Thus, further studies are needed to understand the relationships between LD positivity and Mtb lineage, Mtb transmission and clinical types.

Keywords: Host-pathogen interaction; Lineage; Lipid droplet; Mycobacterium; Sputum; Transcriptome; Transmission; Treatment outcome; Tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Lipid Droplets*
  • Macrophages
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Transcriptome*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Tuberculosis / transmission