Host- and Age-Dependent Transcriptional Changes in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Cell Envelope Biosynthesis Genes after Exposure to Human Alveolar Lining Fluid




Allué-Guardia, Anna
Garcia-Vilanova, Andreu
Olmo-Fontánez, Angélica M.
Peters, Jay
Maselli, Diego J.
Wang, Yufeng
Turner, Joanne
Schlesinger, Larry S.
Torrelles, Jordi B.

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Tuberculosis (TB) infection, caused by the airborne pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), resulted in almost 1.4 million deaths in 2019, and the number of deaths is predicted to increase by 20% over the next 5 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon reaching the alveolar space, M.tb comes into close contact with the lung mucosa before and after its encounter with host alveolar compartment cells. Our previous studies show that homeostatic, innate soluble components of the alveolar lining fluid (ALF) can quickly alter the cell envelope surface of M.tb upon contact, defining subsequent M.tb-host cell interactions and infection outcomes in vitro and in vivo. We also demonstrated that ALF from 60+ year old elders (E-ALF) vs. healthy 18- to 45-year-old adults (A-ALF) is dysfunctional, with loss of homeostatic capacity and impaired innate soluble responses linked to high local oxidative stress. In this study, a targeted transcriptional assay shows that M.tb exposure to human ALF alters the expression of its cell envelope genes. Specifically, our results indicate that A-ALF-exposed M.tb upregulates cell envelope genes associated with lipid, carbohydrate, and amino acid metabolism, as well as genes associated with redox homeostasis and transcriptional regulators. Conversely, M.tb exposure to E-ALF shows a lesser transcriptional response, with most of the M.tb genes unchanged or downregulated. Overall, this study indicates that M.tb responds and adapts to the lung alveolar environment upon contact, and that the host ALF status, determined by factors such as age, might play an important role in determining infection outcome.



Mycobacterium tuberculosis, alveolar lining fluid (ALF), lung mucosa, cell envelope biosynthesis, gene expression


International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23 (2): 983 (2022)


Molecular Microbiology and Immunology