Florence Pojer

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

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Publications (37)312.91 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Phenotypic screening of a quinoxaline library against replicating Mycobacterium tuberculosis led to the identification of lead compound Ty38c (3-((4-methoxybenzyl)amino)-6-(trifluoromethyl)quinoxaline-2-carboxylic acid). With an MIC99 and MBC of 3.1 µM, Ty38c is bactericidal and active against intracellular bacteria. To investigate its mechanism of action we isolated mutants resistant to Ty38c and sequenced their genomes. Mutations were found in rv3405c, coding for the transcriptional repressor of the divergently expressed rv3406 gene. Biochemical studies clearly showed that Rv3406 decarboxylates Ty38c into its inactive keto metabolite. The actual target was then identified by isolating Ty38c-resistant mutants of an M. tuberculosis strain lacking rv3406. Here, mutations were found in dprE1, encoding the decaprenylphosphoryl-D-ribose oxidase DprE1, essential for biogenesis of the mycobacterial cell wall. Genetics, biochemical validation, and X-ray crystallography revealed Ty38c to be a non-covalent, non-competitive DprE1 inhibitor. Structure-activity relationship studies generated a family of DprE1 inhibitors with a range of IC50s and bactericidal activity. Co-crystal structures of DprE1 in complex with eight different quinoxaline analogs provided a high-resolution interaction map of the active site of this extremely vulnerable target in M. tuberculosis.
    ACS Chemical Biology 11/2014; · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The disulfide bonds that form between two cysteine residues are important in defining and rigidifying the structures of proteins and peptides. In polypeptides containing multiple cysteine residues, disulfide isomerization can lead to multiple products with different biological activities. Here, we describe the development of a dithiol amino acid (Dtaa) that can form two disulfide bridges at a single amino acid site. Application of Dtaas to a serine protease inhibitor and a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor inhibitor that contain disulfide constraints enhanced their inhibitory activities 40- and 7.6-fold, respectively. X-ray crystallographic and NMR structure analysis show that the peptide ligands containing Dtaas have retained their native tertiary structures. We furthermore show that replacement of two cysteines by Dtaas can avoid the formation of disulfide bond isomers. With these properties, Dtaas are likely to have broad application in the rational design or directed evolution of peptides and proteins with high activity and stability.
    Nature Chemistry 07/2014; · 21.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The nucleoid-associated protein EspR, a chromosome organizer, has pleiotropic effects on expression of genes associated with cell wall function and pathogenesis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In particular, EspR binds to several sites upstream of the espACD locus to promote its expression thereby ensuring full function of the ESX-1 secretion system, a major virulence determinant. The N-terminus of EspR contains the helix-turn-helix DNA-binding domain, whereas the C-terminal dimerization domain harbors residues involved in inter-subunit interactions. While direct binding to DNA appears to be mediated by an EspR dimer-of-dimers, where two helix-turn-helix motifs remain free for long-range interactions, the mechanism of EspR higher-order organization and its impact on chromosome structure and gene expression are not understood. To investigate these processes, we identified seven amino acid residues using molecular dynamics and substituted them with Ala in order to probe interactions at either the dimer- or the dimer-of-dimers-interfaces. Arg70, Lys72 and Arg101 were important for protein stability and optimal DNA-binding activity. Moreover, the Arg70 mutant showed decreased dimerization in a mycobacterial two-hybrid system. To correlate these defects with higher-order organization and transcriptional activity, we used atomic force microscopy to observe different EspR mutant proteins in complex with the espACD promoter region. In addition, complementation of an M. tuberculosis espR knockout mutant was performed to measure their impact on EspA expression. Our results pinpoint key residues required for EspR function at the dimer- (Arg70) and the dimer-of-dimers (Lys72) interface and demonstrate that EspR dimerization and higher-order oligomerization modulate espACD transcriptional activity and hence pathogenesis.
    Journal of bacteriology 03/2014; · 3.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The complex multi-protein systems for the assembly of protein-bound Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are well defined in Gram-negative model organisms. Little is known about Fe-S cluster biogenesis in other bacterial species. The iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) operon of Mycobacterium tuberculosis lacks several genes known to be essential for the function of this system in other organisms. However, the cysteine desulfurase IscSMtb (Rv3025c) is conserved in this important pathogen. This work demonstrates that deleting iscSMtb renders the cells microaerophilic and hypersensitive to oxidative stress. Moreover, the ∆iscSMtb mutant shows impaired Fe-S cluster dependent enzyme activity clearly indicating that IscSMtb is associated with Fe-S cluster assembly. An extensive interaction network of IscSMtb with Fe-S proteins was identified, suggesting a novel mechanism of sulfur transfer by direct interaction with apoproteins. Interestingly, the highly homologous IscS of Escherichia coli failed to complement the ∆iscSMtb mutant and showed a less diverse protein-interaction profile. To identify a structural basis for these observations we determined the crystal structure of IscSMtb, which mirrors adaptations made in response to an ISC-operon devoid of IscU-like Fe-S cluster scaffold proteins. We conclude that in M. tuberculosis IscS has been redesigned during evolution to compensate for the deletion of large parts of the ISC-operon.
    Biochemical Journal 02/2014; · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The benzothiazinone lead compound, BTZ043, kills Mycobacterium tuberculosis by inhibiting the essential flavo-enzyme DprE1, decaprenylphosphoryl-beta-D-ribose 2-epimerase. Here, we synthesized a new series of piperazine-containing benzothiazinones (PBTZ) and show that, like BTZ043, the preclinical candidate PBTZ169 binds covalently to DprE1. The crystal structure of the DprE1-PBTZ169 complex reveals formation of a semimercaptal adduct with Cys387 in the active site and explains the irreversible inactivation of the enzyme. Compared to BTZ043, PBTZ169 has improved potency, safety and efficacy in zebrafish and mouse models of tuberculosis (TB). When combined with other TB drugs, PBTZ169 showed additive activity against M. tuberculosis in vitro except with bedaquiline (BDQ) where synergy was observed. A new regimen comprising PBTZ169, BDQ and pyrazinamide was found to be more efficacious than the standard three drug treatment in a murine model of chronic disease. PBTZ169 is thus an attractive drug candidate to treat TB in humans.
    EMBO Molecular Medicine 02/2014; · 7.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bicyclic peptides generated through directed evolution by using phage display offer an attractive ligand format for the development of therapeutics. Being nearly 100-fold smaller than antibodies, they promise advantages such as access to chemical synthesis, efficient diffusion into tissues, and needle-free application. However, unlike antibodies, they do not have a folded structure in solution and thus bind less well. We developed bicyclic peptides with hydrophilic chemical structures at their center to promote noncovalent intramolecular interactions, thereby stabilizing the peptide conformation. The sequences of the peptides isolated by phage display from large combinatorial libraries were strongly influenced by the type of small molecule used in the screen, thus suggesting that the peptides fold around the small molecules. X-ray structure analysis revealed that the small molecules indeed formed hydrogen bonds with the peptides. These noncovalent interactions stabilize the peptide-protein complexes and contribute to the high binding affinity.
    Angewandte Chemie International Edition 01/2014; · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The cyclic AMP-dependent transcriptional regulator GlxR from Corynebacterium glutamicum is a member of the super-family of CRP/FNR (cyclic AMP receptor protein/fumarate and nitrate reduction regulator) transcriptional regulators that play central roles in bacterial metabolic regulatory networks. In C. glutamicum, which is widely used for the industrial production of amino acids and serves as a non-pathogenic model organism for members of the Corynebacteriales including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the GlxR homodimer controls the transcription of a large number of genes involved in carbon metabolism. GlxR therefore represents a key target for understanding the regulation and coordination of C. glutamicum metabolism. Here we investigate cylic AMP and DNA binding of GlxR from C. glutamicum and describe the crystal structures of apo GlxR determined at a resolution of 2.5 Å, and two crystal forms of holo GlxR at resolutions of 2.38 and 1.82 Å, respectively. The detailed structural analysis and comparison of GlxR with CRP reveals that the protein undergoes a distinctive conformational change upon cyclic AMP binding leading to a dimer structure more compatible to DNA-binding. As the two binding sites in the GlxR homodimer are structurally identical dynamic changes upon binding of the first ligand are responsible for the allosteric behavior. The results presented here show how dynamic and structural changes in GlxR lead to optimization of orientation and distance of its two DNA-binding helices for optimal DNA recognition.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(12):e113265. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pyridomycin, a natural product with potent antituberculosis activity, inhibits a major drug target, the InhA enoyl reductase. Here, we unveil the co-crystal structure and unique ability of pyridomycin to block both the NADH cofactor- and lipid substrate-binding pockets of InhA. This is to our knowledge a first-of-a-kind binding mode that discloses a new means of InhA inhibition. Proof-of-principle studies show how structure-assisted drug design can improve the activity of new pyridomycin derivatives.
    Nature Chemical Biology 12/2013; · 12.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The EspA protein of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is essential for the type-VII ESX-1 protein secretion apparatus, which delivers the principal virulence factors ESAT-6 and CFP-10. In this study, site-directed mutagenesis of EspA was performed to elucidate its influence on the ESX-1 system. Substituting Trp55 (W55) or Gly57 (G57) residues in the putative W-x-G motif of EspA with arginines impaired ESAT-6 and CFP-10 secretion in vitro and attenuated M. tuberculosis. Replacing Phe50 (F50) and Lys62 (K62) residues flanking the W-x-G motif with arginine and alanine respectively destabilized EspA, abolished ESAT-6 and CFP-10 secretion in vitro and attenuated M. tuberculosis. Likewise, substituting Phe5 (F5) and Lys41 (K41) residues with arginine and alanine respectively also destabilized EspA and blocked ESAT-6 and CFP-10 secretion in vitro. However these two particular mutations did not attenuate M. tuberculosis in cellular models of infection or during acute infection in mice. We have thus identified amino acid residues in EspA that are important for facilitating ESAT-6 and CFP-10 secretion and virulence. However, our data also indicate for the first time that blockage of M. tuberculosis ESAT-6 and CFP-10 secretion in vitro and attenuation are mutually exclusive. (Read the accompanying commentary at: http://jb.asm.org/content/195/24/5418.full)
    Journal of Bacteriology 09/2013; · 3.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The type-VII ESX-1 secretion apparatus, encoded by the esx-1 genetic locus, is essential for the export of EsxA and EsxB, two major virulence factors of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. ESX-1 also requires the products of the unlinked espACD operon for optimal function and these proteins are considered integral parts of the secretion apparatus. Here we show that the espACD operon is not necessary for the secretion of EspB, another ESX-1 substrate, and this unimpeded secretion of EspB is associated with significant residual virulence. Upon further investigation, we found that purified EspB can facilitate M. tb virulence even in the absence of EsxA and EsxB, and may do so by binding the bioactive phospholipids phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine, both of which are potent bioactive molecules with prominent roles in eukaryotic cell signaling. Our findings provide new insights into the impact of the espACD operon on the ESX-1 apparatus and reveal a distinct virulence function for EspB with novel implications in M. tb-host interactions. (Recommended by Faculty of 1000 prime: http://ec2-54-246-145-171.eu-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com/prime/718043807)
    Molecular Microbiology 07/2013; · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The introduction of sulfa drugs for the chemotherapy of bacterial infections in 1935 revolutionized medicine. Although their mechanism of action is understood, the molecular bases for most of their side effects remain obscure. Here, we report that sulfamethoxazole and other sulfa drugs interfere with tetrahydrobiopterin biosynthesis through inhibition of sepiapterin reductase. Crystal structures of sepiapterin reductase with bound sulfa drugs reveal how structurally diverse sulfa drugs achieve specific inhibition of the enzyme. The effect of sulfa drugs on tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent neurotransmitter biosynthesis in cell-based assays provides a rationale for some of their central nervous system-related side effects, particularly in high-dose sulfamethoxazole therapy of Pneumocystis pneumonia. Our findings reveal an unexpected aspect of the pharmacology of sulfa drugs and might translate into their improved medical use.
    Science 05/2013; 340(6135):987-991. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tuberculosis, a global threat to public health, is becoming untreatable due to widespread drug resistance to frontline drugs such as the InhA-inhibitor isoniazid. Historically, by inhibiting highly vulnerable targets, natural products have been an important source of antibiotics including potent anti-tuberculosis agents. Here, we describe pyridomycin, a compound produced by Dactylosporangium fulvum with specific cidal activity against mycobacteria. By selecting pyridomycin-resistant mutants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, whole-genome sequencing and genetic validation, we identified the NADH-dependent enoyl- (Acyl-Carrier-Protein) reductase InhA as the principal target and demonstrate that pyridomycin inhibits mycolic acid synthesis in M. tuberculosis. Furthermore, biochemical and structural studies show that pyridomycin inhibits InhA directly as a competitive inhibitor of the NADH-binding site, thereby identifying a new, druggable pocket in InhA. Importantly, the most frequently encountered isoniazid-resistant clinical isolates remain fully susceptible to pyridomycin, thus opening new avenues for drug development. →See accompanying article http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/emmm.201201811.
    EMBO Molecular Medicine 09/2012; 4(10):1032-42. · 7.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The benzothiazinone BTZ043 is a tuberculosis drug candidate with nanomolar whole-cell activity. BTZ043 targets the DprE1 catalytic component of the essential enzyme decaprenylphosphoryl-β-d-ribofuranose-2'-epimerase, thus blocking biosynthesis of arabinans, vital components of mycobacterial cell walls. Crystal structures of DprE1, in its native form and in a complex with BTZ043, reveal formation of a semimercaptal adduct between the drug and an active-site cysteine, as well as contacts to a neighboring catalytic lysine residue. Kinetic studies confirm that BTZ043 is a mechanism-based, covalent inhibitor. This explains the exquisite potency of BTZ043, which, when fluorescently labeled, localizes DprE1 at the poles of growing bacteria. Menaquinone can reoxidize the flavin adenine dinucleotide cofactor in DprE1 and may be the natural electron acceptor for this reaction in the mycobacterium. Our structural and kinetic analysis provides both insight into a critical epimerization reaction and a platform for structure-based design of improved inhibitors.
    Science translational medicine 09/2012; 4(150):150ra121. · 10.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Specialized metabolic enzymes biosynthesize chemicals of ecological importance, often sharing a pedigree with primary metabolic enzymes. However, the lineage of the enzyme chalcone isomerase (CHI) remained unknown. In vascular plants, CHI-catalysed conversion of chalcones to chiral (S)-flavanones is a committed step in the production of plant flavonoids, compounds that contribute to attraction, defence and development. CHI operates near the diffusion limit with stereospecific control. Although associated primarily with plants, the CHI fold occurs in several other eukaryotic lineages and in some bacteria. Here we report crystal structures, ligand-binding properties and in vivo functional characterization of a non-catalytic CHI-fold family from plants. Arabidopsis thaliana contains five actively transcribed genes encoding CHI-fold proteins, three of which additionally encode amino-terminal chloroplast-transit sequences. These three CHI-fold proteins localize to plastids, the site of de novo fatty-acid biosynthesis in plant cells. Furthermore, their expression profiles correlate with those of core fatty-acid biosynthetic enzymes, with maximal expression occurring in seeds and coinciding with increased fatty-acid storage in the developing embryo. In vitro, these proteins are fatty-acid-binding proteins (FAPs). FAP knockout A. thaliana plants show elevated α-linolenic acid levels and marked reproductive defects, including aberrant seed formation. Notably, the FAP discovery defines the adaptive evolution of a stereospecific and catalytically 'perfected' enzyme from a non-enzymatic ancestor over a defined period of plant evolution.
    Nature 05/2012; 485(7399):530-3. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The principal virulence determinant of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the ESX-1 protein secretion system, is positively controlled at the transcriptional level by EspR. Depletion of EspR reportedly affects a small number of genes, both positively or negatively, including a key ESX-1 component, the espACD operon. EspR is also thought to be an ESX-1 substrate. Using EspR-specific antibodies in ChIP-Seq experiments (chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing) we show that EspR binds to at least 165 loci on the Mtb genome. Included in the EspR regulon are genes encoding not only EspA, but also EspR itself, the ESX-2 and ESX-5 systems, a host of diverse cell wall functions, such as production of the complex lipid PDIM (phenolthiocerol dimycocerosate) and the PE/PPE cell-surface proteins. EspR binding sites are not restricted to promoter regions and can be clustered. This suggests that rather than functioning as a classical regulatory protein EspR acts globally as a nucleoid-associated protein capable of long-range interactions consistent with a recently established structural model. EspR expression was shown to be growth phase-dependent, peaking in the stationary phase. Overexpression in Mtb strain H37Rv revealed that EspR influences target gene expression both positively or negatively leading to growth arrest. At no stage was EspR secreted into the culture filtrate. Thus, rather than serving as a specific activator of a virulence locus, EspR is a novel nucleoid-associated protein, with both architectural and regulatory roles, that impacts cell wall functions and pathogenesis through multiple genes.
    PLoS Pathogens 03/2012; 8(3):e1002621. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we present a biophysical, structural, and computational analysis of the directed evolution of the human DNA repair protein O(6)-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (hAGT) into SNAP-tag, a self-labeling protein tag. Evolution of hAGT led not only to increased protein activity but also to higher stability, especially of the alkylated protein, suggesting that the reactivity of the suicide enzyme can be influenced by stabilizing the product of the irreversible reaction. Whereas wild-type hAGT is rapidly degraded in cells after alkyl transfer, the high stability of benzylated SNAP-tag prevents proteolytic degradation. Our data indicate that the intrinstic stability of a key α helix is an important factor in triggering the unfolding and degradation of wild-type hAGT upon alkyl transfer, providing new insights into the structure-function relationship of the DNA repair protein.
    Biochemistry 02/2012; 51(5):986-94. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The transketolase (TKT) enzyme in Mycobacterium tuberculosis represents a novel drug target for tuberculosis treatment and has low homology with the orthologous human enzyme. Here, we report on the structural and kinetic characterization of the transketolase from M. tuberculosis (TBTKT), a homodimer whose monomers each comprise 700 amino acids. We show that TBTKT catalyses the oxidation of donor sugars xylulose-5-phosphate and fructose-6-phosphate as well as the reduction of the acceptor sugar ribose-5-phosphate. An invariant residue of the TKT consensus sequence required for thiamine cofactor binding is mutated in TBTKT; yet its catalytic activities are unaffected, and the 2.5 Å resolution structure of full-length TBTKT provides an explanation for this. Key structural differences between the human and mycobacterial TKT enzymes that impact both substrate and cofactor recognition and binding were uncovered. These changes explain the kinetic differences between TBTKT and its human counterpart, and their differential inhibition by small molecules. The availability of a detailed structural model of TBTKT will enable differences between human and M. tuberculosis TKT structures to be exploited to design selective inhibitors with potential antitubercular activity.
    Open Biology 01/2012; 2(1):110026. · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF) is a key mediator of inflammatory responses and innate immunity and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The oligomerization of MIF, more specifically trimer formation, is essential for its keto-enol tautomerase activity and probably mediates several of its interactions and biological activities, including its binding to its receptor CD74 and activation of certain signaling pathways. Therefore, understanding the molecular factors governing the oligomerization of MIF and the role of quaternary structure in modulating its structural stability and multifunctional properties is crucial for understanding the function of MIF in health and disease. Herein, we describe highly conserved intersubunit interactions involving the hydrophobic packing of the side chain of Leu46 onto the β-strand β3 of one monomer within a hydrophobic pocket from the adjacent monomer constituted by residues Arg11, Val14, Phe18, Leu19, Val39, His40, Val41, Val42, and Pro43. To elucidate the structural significance of these intersubunit interactions and their relative contribution to MIF's trimerization, structural stability and catalytic activity, we generated three point mutations where Leu46 was replaced by glycine (L46G), alanine (L46A) and phenylalanine (L46F), and their structural properties, stability, oligomerization state, and catalytic activity were characterized using a battery of biophysical methods and X-ray crystallography. Our findings provide new insights into the role of the Leu46 hydrophobic pocket in stabilizing the conformational state of MIF in solution. Disrupting the Leu46 hydrophobic interaction perturbs the secondary and tertiary structure of the protein but has no effect on its oligomerization state.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(9):e45024. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Benzothiazinones (BTZs) are antituberculosis drug candidates with nanomolar bactericidal activity against tubercle bacilli. Here we demonstrate that BTZs are suicide substrates of the FAD-dependent decaprenylphosphoryl-β-D-ribofuranose 2'-oxidase DprE1, an enzyme involved in cell-wall biogenesis. BTZs are reduced by DprE1 to an electrophile, which then reacts in a near-quantitative manner with an active-site cysteine of DprE1, thus providing a rationale for the extraordinary potency of BTZs. Mutant DprE1 enzymes from BTZ-resistant strains reduce BTZs to inert metabolites while avoiding covalent inactivation. Our results explain the basis for drug sensitivity and resistance to an exceptionally potent class of antituberculosis agents.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 12/2011; 134(2):912-5. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: ESAT-6 system 1 (ESX-1)-mediated secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on proteins encoded by the cotranscribed espA-espC-espD gene cluster. While the roles of EspA and EspC with respect to the ESX-1 secretion system have been actively investigated, the function of EspD remains unknown. We show that EspD is secreted by M. tuberculosis, but unlike EspA and EsxA, its export does not exclusively require the ESX-1 system. Evidence for stabilization of cellular levels of EspA and EspC by EspD is presented, and depletion of EspD results in loss of EsxA secretion. Site-directed mutagenesis of EspD reveals that its role in the maintenance of cellular levels of EspA in M. tuberculosis is distinct from its facilitation of EsxA secretion. The same mutagenesis experiments have also shown that secretion of EspD is not required for the secretion of EsxA. Our findings highlight a critical and complex role for EspD in modulating the ESX-1 secretion system in M. tuberculosis.
    Journal of Bacteriology 12/2011; 194(4):884-93. · 3.19 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

772 Citations
312.91 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2010–2014
    • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
      • • Global Health Institute
      • • Laboratoire d'ingénierie des protéines
      Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
  • 2012
    • Eawag: Das Wasserforschungs-Institut des ETH-Bereichs
      Duebendorf, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2006
    • Salk Institute
      La Jolla, California, United States
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2003–2006
    • University of Tuebingen
      • Division of Pharmaceutical Biology
      Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany