Arylamine N-acetyltransferase is required for synthesis of mycolic acids and complex lipids in Mycobacterium bovis BCG and represents a novel drug target

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • S Bhakta
  • AM Upton
  • T Parish
  • C Sholto-Douglas-Vernon
  • KJC Gibson

Colleges, School and Institutes


Mycolic acids represent a major component of the unique cell wall of mycobacteria. Mycolic acid biosynthesis is inhibited by isoniazid, a key frontline antitubercular drug that is inactivated by mycobacterial and human arylamine N-acetyltransferase (NAT). We show that an in-frame deletion of Mycobacterium bovis BCG nat results in delayed entry into log phase, altered morphology, altered cell wall lipid composition, and increased intracellular killing by macrophages. In particular, deletion of nat perturbs biosynthesis of mycolic acids and their derivatives and increases susceptibility of M. bovis BCG to antibiotics that permeate the cell wall. Phenotypic traits are fully complemented by introduction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis nat. We infer from our findings that NAT is critical to normal mycolic acid synthesis and hence other derivative cell wall components and represents a novel target for antituberculosis therapy. In addition, this is the first report of an endogenous role for NAT in mycobacteria.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191-1199
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Medicine
Early online date26 Apr 2004
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2004


  • isoniazid, metabolism, cell wall, macrophage, Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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