Quantitative Mass Spectrometry Reveals Plasticity of Metabolic Networks in Mycobacterium smegmatis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis has a remarkable ability to persist within the human host as a clinically inapparent or chronically active infection. Fatty acids are thought to be an important carbon source used by the bacteria during long term infection. Catabolism of fatty acids requires reprogramming of metabolic networks, and enzymes central to this reprogramming have been targeted for drug discovery. Mycobacterium smegmatis, a nonpathogenic relative of M. tuberculosis, is often used as a model system because of the similarity of basic cellular processes in these two species. Here, we take a quantitative proteomics-based approach to achieve a global view of how the M. smegmatis metabolic network adjusts to utilization of fatty acids as a carbon source. Two-dimensional liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry of isotopically labeled proteins identified a total of 3,067 proteins with high confidence. This number corresponds to 44% of the predicted M. smegmatis proteome and includes most of the predicted metabolic enzymes. Compared with glucose-grown cells, 162 proteins showed differential abundance in acetate- or propionate-grown cells. Among these, acetate-grown cells showed a higher abundance of proteins that could constitute a functional glycerate pathway. Gene inactivation experiments confirmed that both the glyoxylate shunt and the glycerate pathway are operational in M. smegmatis. In addition to proteins with annotated functions, we demonstrate carbon source-dependent differential abundance of proteins that have not been functionally characterized. These proteins might play as-yet-unidentified roles in mycobacterial carbon metabolism. This study reveals several novel features of carbon assimilation in M. smegmatis, which suggests significant functional plasticity of metabolic networks in this organism.