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Biochemical and molecular analysis of phospholipase C and phospholipase D activity in mycobacteria.

Johansen K.A., Gill R.E., Vasil M.L.

Resurgence of mycobacterial infections in the United States has led to an intense effort to identify potential virulence determinants in the genus Mycobacterium, particularly ones that would be associated with the more virulent species (e.g., Mycobacterium tuberculosis). Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) using radiolabeled phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin as substrates indicated that cell extracts of M. tuberculosis contain both phospholipase C (PLC) and phospholipase D (PLD) activities. In contrast, only PLD activity was detected in cell extracts of M. smegmatis. Neither activity was detected in cell-free culture supernatants from these organisms. We and others recently identified two open reading frames in M. tuberculosis with the potential to encode proteins which are highly homologous to the nonhemolytic (PlcN) and hemolytic (PlcH) phospholipase C enzymes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In contrast to the plc genes in P. aeruginosa, which are considerably distal to each other (min 34 and 64 on the chromosome), the mycobacterial genes, designated mpcA and mpcB, are tandemly arranged in the same relative orientation and separated by only 191 bp. Both the mpcA and the mpcB genes were individually cloned in M. smegmatis, and PLC activity was expressed from each gene in this organism. Hybridization experiments using the mpcA and the mpcB genes as probes under conditions of moderate stringency identified sequences homologous to these genes in M. bovis, M. bovis BCG, and M. marinum but not in several other Mycobacterium species, including M. smegmatis, M. avium, and M. intracellulare. TLC analysis using radiolabeled substrates indicated that M. bovis and M. marinum cell extracts contain PLC and PLD activities, but only PLD activity was detected in M. bovis BCG cell extracts. Sphingomyelinase activity was also detected in whole-cell extracts of M. tuberculosis, M. marinum, M. bovis, and M. bovis BCG, but this activity was not detected in extracts of M. smegmatis. Sphingomyelinase activity was detected in cell extracts from M. smegmatis harboring either recombinant mpcA or mpcB. These data indicate that PLC and sphingomyelinase activities are associated with the most virulent mycobacterial species, while PLD activity was detected in both virulent and saprophytic strains.

Infect. Immun. 64:3259-3266(1996) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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