EthA, a Common Activator of Thiocarbamide-Containing Drugs Acting on Different Mycobacterial Targets

Lynn Dover, A Alahari, P Gratraud, Jessica Gomes, Veemal Bhowruth, RC Reynolds, Gurdyal Besra, L Kremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Citations (Scopus)


Many of the current antimycobacterial agents require some form of cellular activation unmasking reactive groups, which in turn will bind to their specific targets. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms of activation of current antimycobacterials not only helps to decipher mechanisms of drug resistance but may also facilitate the development of alternative activation strategies or of analogues that do not require such processes. Herein, through the use of genetically defined strains of Mycobacterium bovis BCG we provide evidence that EthA, previously shown to activate ethionamide, also converts isoxyl (ISO) and thiacetazone (TAC) into reactive species. These results were further supported by the development of an in vitro assay using purified recombinant EthA, which allowed direct assessment of the metabolism of ISO. Interestingly, biochemical analysis of [(14)C]acetate-labeled cultures suggested that all of these EthA-activated drugs inhibit mycolic acid biosynthesis via different mechanisms through binding to specific targets. This report is also the first description of the molecular mechanism of action of TAC, a thiosemicarbazone antimicrobial agent that is still used in the treatment of tuberculosis as a second-line drug in many developing countries. Altogether, the results suggest that EthA is a common activator of thiocarbamide-containing drugs. The broad specificity of EthA can now be used to improve the activation process of these drugs, which may help overcome the toxicity problems associated with clinical thiocarbamide use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1063
Number of pages9
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2006
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2006


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