Phospholipid homeostasis, membrane tenacity and survival of Mtb in lipid rich conditions is determined by MmpL11 function
The mycobacterial cell wall is a chemically complex array of molecular entities that dictate the pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Biosynthesis and maintenance of this dynamic entity in mycobacterial physiology is still poorly understood. Here we demonstrate a requirement for M. tuberculosis MmpL11 in the maintenance of the cell wall architecture and stability in response to surface stress. In the presence of a detergent like Tyloxapol, a mmpL11 deletion mutant suffered from a severe growth attenuation as a result of altered membrane polarity, permeability and severe architectural damages. This mutant failed to tolerate permissible concentrations of cis-fatty acids suggesting its increased sensitivity to surface stress, evident as smaller colonies of the mutant outgrown from lipid rich macrophage cultures. Additionally, loss of MmpL11 led to an altered cellular fatty acid flux in the mutant: reduced incorporation into membrane cardiolipin was associated with an increased flux into the cellular triglyceride pool. This increase in storage lipids like triacyl glycerol (TAG) was associated with the altered metabolic state of higher dormancy-associated gene expression and decreased sensitivity to frontline TB drugs. This study provides a detailed mechanistic insight into the function of mmpL11 in stress adaptation of mycobacteria.