MadR mediates acyl CoA-dependent regulation of mycolic acid desaturation in mycobacteria

Charlotte Cooper, Eliza J. R. Peterson, Rebeca Bailo, Min Pan, Albel Singh, Patrick Moynihan, Makoto Nakaya, Nagatoshi Fujiwara, Nitin Baliga, Apoorva Bhatt

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Mycobacterium tuberculosis has a lipid-rich cell envelope that is remodeled throughout infection to enable adaptation within the host. Few transcriptional regulators have been characterized that coordinate synthesis of mycolic acids, the major cell wall lipids of mycobacteria. Here, we show that the mycolic acid desaturase regulator (MadR), a transcriptional repressor of the mycolate desaturase genes desA1 and desA2, controls mycolic acid desaturation and biosynthesis in response to cell envelope stress. A madR-null mutant of M. smegmatis exhibited traits of an impaired cell wall with an altered outer mycomembrane, accumulation of a desaturated α-mycolate, susceptibility to antimycobacterials, and cell surface disruption. Transcriptomic profiling showed that enriched lipid metabolism genes that were significantly down-regulated upon madR deletion included acyl-coenzyme A (aceyl-CoA) dehydrogenases, implicating it in the indirect control of β-oxidation pathways. Electromobility shift assays and binding affinities suggest a unique acyl-CoA pool–sensing mechanism, whereby MadR is able to bind a range of acyl-CoAs, including those with unsaturated as well as saturated acyl chains. MadR repression of desA1/desA2 is relieved upon binding of saturated acyl-CoAs of chain length C16 to C24, while no impact is observed upon binding of shorter chain and unsaturated acyl-CoAs. We propose this mechanism of regulation as distinct to other mycolic acid and fatty acid synthesis regulators and place MadR as the key regulatory checkpoint that coordinates mycolic acid remodeling during infection in response to host-derived cell surface perturbation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2111059119
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2022


  • Mycobacterium
  • TetR regulator
  • cell envelope
  • mycolic acid
  • tuberculosis


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