Trehalose-recycling ABC transporter LpqY-SugA-SugB-SugC is essential for virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is an exclusively human pathogen that proliferates within phagosomes of host phagocytes. Host lipids are believed to provide the major carbon and energy sources for Mtb, with only limited availability of carbohydrates. There is an apparent paradox because five putative carbohydrate uptake permeases are present in Mtb, but there are essentially no host carbohydrates inside phagosomes. Nevertheless, carbohydrate transporters have been implicated in Mtb pathogenesis, suggesting that acquisition of host sugars is important during some stages of infection. Here we show, however, that the LpqY-SugA-SugB-SugC ATP-binding cassette transporter is highly specific for uptake of the disaccharide trehalose, a sugar not present in mammals, thus refuting a role in nutrient acquisition from the host. Trehalose release is known to occur as a byproduct of the biosynthesis of the mycolic acid cell envelope by Mtb's antigen 85 complex. The antigen 85 complex constitutes a group of extracellular mycolyl transferases, which transfer the lipid moiety of the glycolipid trehalose monomycolate (TMM) to arabinogalactan or another molecule of TMM, yielding trehalose dimycolate. These reactions also lead to the concomitant extracellular release of the trehalose moiety of TMM. We found that the LpqY-SugA-SugB-SugC ATP-binding cassette transporter is a recycling system mediating the retrograde transport of released trehalose. Perturbations in trehalose recycling strongly impaired virulence of Mtb. This study reveals an unexpected accessory component involved in the formation of the mycolic acid cell envelope in mycobacteria and provides a previously unknown role for sugar transporters in bacterial pathogenesis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21761-6
Number of pages6
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2010