Cell envelope stress in mycobacteria is regulated by the novel signal transduction ATPase IniR in response to trehalose

Maikel Boot, Vincent J C van Winden, Marion Sparrius, Robert van de Weerd, Alexander Speer, Roy Ummels, Tige Rustad, David R Sherman, Wilbert Bitter

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The cell envelope of mycobacteria is a highly unique and complex structure that is functionally equivalent to that of Gram-negative bacteria to protect the bacterial cell. Defects in the integrity or assembly of this cell envelope must be sensed to allow the induction of stress response systems. The promoter that is specifically and most strongly induced upon exposure to ethambutol and isoniazid, first line drugs that affect cell envelope biogenesis, is the iniBAC promoter. In this study, we set out to identify the regulator of the iniBAC operon in Mycobacterium marinum using an unbiased transposon mutagenesis screen in a constitutively iniBAC-expressing mutant background. We obtained multiple mutants in the mce1 locus as well as mutants in an uncharacterized putative transcriptional regulator (MMAR_0612). This latter gene was shown to function as the iniBAC regulator, as overexpression resulted in constitutive iniBAC induction, whereas a knockout mutant was unable to respond to the presence of ethambutol and isoniazid. Experiments with the M. tuberculosis homologue (Rv0339c) showed identical results. RNAseq experiments showed that this regulatory gene was exclusively involved in the regulation of the iniBAC operon. We therefore propose to name this dedicated regulator iniBAC Regulator (IniR). IniR belongs to the family of signal transduction ATPases with numerous domains, including a putative sugar-binding domain. Upon testing different sugars, we identified trehalose as an activator and metabolic cue for iniBAC activation, which could also explain the effect of the mce1 mutations. In conclusion, cell envelope stress in mycobacteria is regulated by IniR in a cascade that includes trehalose.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007131
Pages (from-to)e1007131
JournalPLOS Genetics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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