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In contrast with most bacteria, which harbour a single inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) gene, the genomic sequence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv predicts three genes encoding IMPDH: guaB1, guaB2 and guaB3. These three genes were cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli to evaluate functional IMPDH activity. Purified recombinant Mt-GuaB2, which uses inosine monophosphate as a substrate, was identified as the only active GuaB orthologue in M. tuberculosis and showed optimal activity at pH 8.5 and 37 °C. Mt-GuaB2 was inhibited significantly in vitro by a panel of diphenyl urea-based derivatives, which were also potent anti-mycobacterial agents against M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis, with MICs in the range of 0.2-0.5 μg ml(-1). When Mt-GuaB2 was overexpressed on a plasmid in trans in M. smegmatis, a diphenyl urea analogue showed a 16-fold increase in MIC. Interestingly, when Mt-GuaB orthologues (Mt-GuaB1 and 3) were also overexpressed on a plasmid in trans in M. smegmatis, they also conferred resistance, suggesting that although these Mt-GuaB orthologues were inactive in vitro, they presumably titrate the effect of the inhibitory properties of the active compounds in vivo.