Self-poisoning of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by targeting GlgE in an alpha-glucan pathway.
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New chemotherapeutics are urgently required to control the tuberculosis pandemic. We describe a new pathway from trehalose to alpha-glucan in Mycobacterium tuberculosis comprising four enzymatic steps mediated by TreS, Pep2, GlgE (which has been identified as a maltosyltransferase that uses maltose 1-phosphate) and GlgB. Using traditional and chemical reverse genetics, we show that GlgE inactivation causes rapid death of M. tuberculosis in vitro and in mice through a self-poisoning accumulation of maltose 1-phosphate. Poisoning elicits pleiotropic phosphosugar-induced stress responses promoted by a self-amplifying feedback loop where trehalose-forming enzymes are upregulated. Moreover, the pathway from trehalose to alpha-glucan exhibited a synthetic lethal interaction with the glucosyltransferase Rv3032, which is involved in biosynthesis of polymethylated alpha-glucans, because key enzymes in each pathway could not be simultaneously inactivated. The unique combination of maltose 1-phosphate toxicity and gene essentiality within a synthetic lethal pathway validates GlgE as a distinct potential drug target that exploits new synergistic mechanisms to induce death in M. tuberculosis.