Mycobacterial cell wall biosynthesis: a multifaceted antibiotic target

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Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the etiological agent of tuberculosis (TB), is recognized as a global health emergency as promoted by the World Health Organization. Over 1 million deaths per year, along with the emergence of multi- and extensively-drug resistant strains of Mtb, have triggered intensive research into the pathogenicity and biochemistry of this microorganism, guiding the development of anti-TB chemotherapeutic agents. The essential mycobacterial cell wall, sharing some common features with all bacteria, represents an apparent 'Achilles heel' that has been targeted by TB chemotherapy since the advent of TB treatment. This complex structure composed of three distinct layers, peptidoglycan, arabinogalactan and mycolic acids, is vital in supporting cell growth, virulence and providing a barrier to antibiotics. The fundamental nature of cell wall synthesis and assembly has rendered the mycobacterial cell wall as the most widely exploited target of anti-TB drugs. This review provides an overview of the biosynthesis of the prominent cell wall components, highlighting the inhibitory mechanisms of existing clinical drugs and illustrating the potential of other unexploited enzymes as future drug targets.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Early online date15 Dec 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2016


  • tuberculosis
  • cell wall
  • peptidoglycan
  • arabinogalactan
  • mycolic acids
  • antibiotics


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