Genetics of Mycobacterial Arabinogalactan and Lipoarabinomannan Assembly

Monika Jankute, Shipra Grover, Helen L Birch, Gurdyal S Besra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The cell wall of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is unique in that it differs significantly from those of both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. The thick, carbohydrate- and lipid-rich cell wall with distinct lipoglycans enables mycobacteria to survive under hostile conditions such as shortage of nutrients and antimicrobial exposure. The key features of this highly complex cell wall are the mycolyl-arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan (mAGP)-based and phosphatidyl-myo-inositol-based macromolecular structures, with the latter possessing potent immunomodulatory properties. These structures are crucial for the growth, viability, and virulence of M. tuberculosis and therefore are often the targets of effective chemotherapeutic agents against tuberculosis. Over the past decade, sophisticated genomic and molecular tools have advanced our understanding of the primary structure and biosynthesis of these macromolecules. The availability of the full genome sequences of various mycobacterial species, including M. tuberculosis, Mycobacterium marinum, and Mycobacterium bovis BCG, have greatly facilitated the identification of large numbers of drug targets and antigens specific to tuberculosis. Techniques to manipulate mycobacteria have also improved extensively; the conditional expression-specialized transduction essentiality test (CESTET) is currently used to determine the essentiality of individual genes. Finally, various biosynthetic assays using either purified proteins or synthetic cell wall acceptors have been developed to study enzyme function. This article focuses on the recent advances in determining the structural details and biosynthesis of arabinogalactan, lipoarabinomannan, and related glycoconjugates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


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