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Free Content Mycobacterium avium 104 deleted of the methyltransferase D gene by allelic replacement lacks serotype-specific glycopeptidolipids and shows attenuated virulence in mice

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Mycobacterium avium is a major opportunistic pathogen of AIDS patients in the United States. The understanding of M. avium pathogenesis has been hampered by the inability to create gene knockouts by homologous recombination, an important mechanism for defining and characterizing virulence factors. In this study a functional methyltransferase D (mtfD) gene was deleted by allelic replacement in the M. avium strain 104. Methyltransferase D is involved in the methylation of glycopeptidolipids (GPLs); highly antigenic glycolipids found in copious amounts on the M. avium cell surface. Interestingly, the loss of mtfD resulted in M. avium 104 containing only the non-serotype specific GPL. Results also suggest that the mtfD encodes for a 3-O-methyltransferase. The absence of significant amounts of any serotype-specific GPLs as a consequence of mtfD deletion indicates that the synthesis of the core 3,4-di-O-methyl rhamnose is a prerequisite for synthesis of the serotype-specific GPLs. Macrophages infected with the mtfD mutant show elevated production of tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and RANTES compared to control infections. In addition, the M. avium 104 mtfD mutant exhibits decreased ability to survive/proliferate in mouse liver and lung compared to wild-type 104, as assessed by bacterial counts. Importantly, the mtfD mutant complemented with a wild-type mtfD gene maintained an infection level similar to wild-type. These experiments demonstrate that the loss of mtfD results in a M. avium 104 strain, which preferentially activates macrophages in vitro and shows attenuated virulence in mice. Together our data support a role for GPLs in M. avium pathogenesis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Center for Tropical Disease Research and Training, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA. 2: Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1682, USA.

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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