The copper-responsive RicR regulon contributes to Mycobacterium tuberculosis virulence. Academic Article uri icon


  • UNLABELLED: As with most life on Earth, the transition metal copper (Cu) is essential for the viability of the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, infected hosts can also use Cu to control microbial growth. Several Cu-responsive pathways are present in M. tuberculosis, including the regulated in copper repressor (RicR) regulon, which is unique to pathogenic mycobacteria. In this work, we describe the contribution of each RicR-regulated gene to Cu resistance in vitro and to virulence in animals. We found that the deletion or disruption of individual RicR-regulated genes had no impact on virulence in mice, although several mutants had Cu hypersensitivity. In contrast, a mutant unable to activate the RicR regulon was not only highly susceptible to Cu but also attenuated in mice. Thus, these data suggest that several genes of the RicR regulon are required simultaneously to combat Cu toxicity in vivo or that this regulon is also important for resistance against Cu-independent mechanisms of host defense. IMPORTANCE: Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the causative agent of tuberculosis, killing millions of people every year. Therefore, understanding the biology of M. tuberculosis is crucial for the development of new therapies to treat this devastating disease. Our studies reveal that although host-supplied Cu can suppress bacterial growth, M. tuberculosis has a unique pathway, the RicR regulon, to defend against Cu toxicity. These findings suggest that Cu homeostasis pathways in both the host and the pathogen could be exploited for the treatment of tuberculosis.

published proceedings

  • mBio

author list (cited authors)

  • Shi, X., Festa, R. A., Ioerger, T. R., Butler-Wu, S., Sacchettini, J. C., Darwin, K. H., & Samanovic, M. I.

citation count

  • 52

complete list of authors

  • Shi, Xiaoshan||Festa, Richard A||Ioerger, Thomas R||Butler-Wu, Susan||Sacchettini, James C||Darwin, K Heran||Samanovic, Marie I

editor list (cited editors)

  • Projan, S. J.

publication date

  • February 2014

published in