Mycolic acids : deciphering and targeting the Achilles' heel of the tubercle bacillus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Vijaya-Shankar Nataraj
  • Cristian Varela Ramirez
  • Asma Javid
  • Albel Singh

Colleges, School and Institutes


Mycolic acids are unique long chain fatty acids found in the lipid-rich cell walls of mycobacteria including the tubercle bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Essential for viability and virulence, enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of mycolic acids represent novel targets for drug development. This is particularly relevant to the impact on global health given the rise of multidrug resistant and extensively drug resistant strains of M. tuberculosis. In this review, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of how mycolic acid are synthesised, especially the potential role of specialised fatty acid synthase complexes. Also, we examine the role of a recently reported mycolic acid transporter MmpL3 with reference to several reports of the targeting of this transporter by diverse compounds with anti-M. tuberculosis activity. Additionally, we consider recent findings that place mycolic acid biosynthesis in context of the cell biology of the bacterium, viz its localisation and co-ordination with the bacterial cytoskeleton, and its role beyond maintaining cell envelope integrity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-16
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2015