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Sulfolipid-1 Biosynthesis Restricts Mycobacterium tuberculosis Growth in Human Macrophages

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posted on 16.12.2015 by Sarah A. Gilmore, Michael W. Schelle, Cynthia M. Holsclaw, Clifton D. Leigh, Madhulika Jain, Jeffery S. Cox, Julie A. Leary, Carolyn R. Bertozzi
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, is a highly evolved human pathogen characterized by its formidable cell wall. Many unique lipids and glycolipids from the Mtb cell wall are thought to be virulence factors that mediate host–pathogen interactions. An intriguing example is Sulfolipid-1 (SL-1), a sulfated glycolipid that has been implicated in Mtb pathogenesis, although no direct role for SL-1 in virulence has been established. Previously, we described the biochemical activity of the sulfotransferase Stf0 that initiates SL-1 biosynthesis. Here we show that a stf0-deletion mutant exhibits augmented survival in human but not murine macrophages, suggesting that SL-1 negatively regulates the intracellular growth of Mtb in a species-specific manner. Furthermore, we demonstrate that SL-1 plays a role in mediating the susceptibility of Mtb to a human cationic antimicrobial peptide in vitro, despite being dispensable for maintaining overall cell envelope integrity. Thus, we hypothesize that the species-specific phenotype of the stf0 mutant is reflective of differences in antimycobacterial effector mechanisms of macrophages.