Mycobacterium tuberculosis Resists Stress by Regulating PE19 Expression
Mycobacterium tuberculosis requires the phosphate-sensing signal transduction system Pst/SenX3-RegX3 to resist host immune responses. A Delta pstA1 mutant lacking a Pst phosphate uptake system component is hypersensitive to diverse stress conditions in vitro and is attenuated in vivo due to constitutive expression of the phosphate starvation-responsive RegX3 regulon. Transcriptional profiling of the Delta pstA1 mutant revealed aberrant expression of certain pe and ppe genes. PE and PPE proteins, defined by conserved N-terminal domains containing Pro-Glu (PE) or Pro-Pro-Glu (PPE) motifs, account for a substantial fraction of the M. tuberculosis genome coding capacity, but their functions are largely uncharacterized. Because some PE and PPE proteins localize to the cell wall, we hypothesized that overexpression of these proteins sensitizes M. tuberculosis to stress by altering cell wall integrity. To test this idea, we deleted pe and ppe genes that were overexpressed by Delta pstA1 bacteria. Deletion of a single pe gene, pe19, suppressed hypersensitivity of the Delta pstA1 mutant to both detergent and reactive oxygen species. Ethidium bromide uptake assays revealed increased envelope permeability of the Delta pstA1 mutant that was dependent on PE19. The replication defect of the Delta pstA1 mutant in NOS2(-/-) mice was partially reversed by deletion of pe19, suggesting that increased membrane permeability due to PE19 overexpression sensitizes M. tuberculosis to host immunity. Our data indicate that PE19, which comprises only a 99-amino-acid PE domain, has a unique role in the permeability of the M. tuberculosis envelope that is regulated to resist stresses encountered in the host.