Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Resistance in Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

Annu Rev Biochem. 1996;65:215-39. doi: 10.1146/


In spite of forty years of effective chemotherapy for tuberculosis, the molecular mechanisms of antibacterial compounds in Mycobacterium tuberculosis have only recently been revealed. Broad spectrum antibacterials, including streptomycin, rifampicin, and fluoroquinolones have been demonstrated to act on the same targets in M. tuberculosis as they do in E. coli. Resistance to these agents results from single mutagenic events that lead to amino acid substitutions in their target proteins. The mechanisms of action of the unique antitubercular drugs, including isoniazid, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide have also recently been defined. Resistance to isoniazid can be caused either by mutations in the katG-encoded catalase-peroxidase, the enzyme responsible for drug activation, or by the molecular target, the inhA-encoded long chain enoyl-ACP reductase. Ethambutol appears to block specifically the biosynthesis of the arabinogalactan component of the mycobacterial cell envelope, and pyrazinamide has no known target. With the resurgence of tuberculosis and the appearance of strains which are multiply resistant to the above compounds, present tuberculosis chemotherapies are threatened. New approaches to the treatment of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Wall / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Nucleic Acids / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nucleic Acids / biosynthesis
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors