The role of fatty acid metabolism in drug tolerance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Camila G. Quinonez, Jae Jin Lee, Juhyeon Lim, Mark Odell, Christopher P. Lawson, Amararachukwu Anyogu, Saki Raheem, Hyungjin Eoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Mycobacterium tuberculosis can cocatabolize a range of carbon sources. Fatty acids are among the carbons available inside the host's macrophages. Here, we investigated the metabolic changes of the fatty acid-induced dormancy-like state of M. tuberculosis and its involvement in the acquisition of drug tolerance. We conducted metabolomics profiling using a phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK)-deficient M. tuberculosis strain in an acetate-induced dormancy-like state, highlighting an overaccumulation of methylcitrate cycle (MCC) intermediates that correlates with enhanced drug tolerance against isoniazid and bedaquiline. Further metabolomics analyses of two M. tuberculosis mutants, an ICL knockdown (KD) strain and PrpD knockout (KO) strain, each lacking an MCC enzyme-isocitrate lyase (ICL) and 2-methylcitrate dehydratase (PrpD), respectively-were conducted after treatment with antibiotics. The ICL KD strain, which lacks the last enzyme of the MCC, showed an overaccumulation of MCC intermediates and a high level of drug tolerance. The PrpD KO strain, however, failed to accumulate MCC intermediates as it lacks the second step of the MCC and showed only a minor level of drug tolerance compared to the ICL KD mutant and its parental strain (CDC1551). Notably, addition of authentic 2-methylisocitrate, an MCC intermediate, improved the M. tuberculosis drug tolerance against antibiotics even in glycerol medium. Furthermore, wild-type M. tuberculosis displayed levels of drug tolerance when cultured in acetate medium significantly greater than those in glycerol medium. Taken together, the fatty acid-induced dormancy-like state remodels the central carbon metabolism of M. tuberculosis that is functionally relevant to acquisition of M. tuberculosis drug tolerance. IMPORTANCE Understanding the mechanisms underlying M. tuberculosis adaptive strategies to achieve drug tolerance is crucial for the identification of new targets and the development of new drugs. Here, we show that acetate medium triggers a drug-tolerant state in M. tuberculosis when challenged with antituberculosis (anti-TB) drugs. This carbon-induced drug-tolerant state is linked to an accumulation of the methylcitrate cycle (MCC) intermediates, whose role was previously known as a detox pathway for propionate metabolism. Three mutant strains with mutations in gluconeogenesis and MCC were used to investigate the correlation between drug tolerance and the accumulation of MCC metabolites. We herein report a new role of the MCC used to provide a survival advantage to M. tuberculosis as a species against both anti-TB drugs upon specific carbon sources.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03559-21
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2022


  • tuberculosis
  • drug tolerance
  • metabolomics
  • methylcitrate cycle
  • fatty acids
  • acetate


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of fatty acid metabolism in drug tolerance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this