A Nonsense Mutation in Mycobacterium marinum That Is Suppressible by a Novel Mechanism
Mycobacterial pathogens use the ESAT-6 system 1 (Esx-1) exporter to promote virulence. Previously, we used gene disruption and complementation to conclude that the MMAR_0039 gene in Mycobacterium marinum is required to promote Esx-1 export. Here we applied molecular genetics, proteomics, and whole-genome sequencing to demonstrate that the MMAR_0039 gene is not required for Esx-1 secretion or virulence. These findings suggest that we initially observed an indirect mechanism of genetic complementation. We identified a spontaneous nonsense mutation in a known Esx-1-associated gene which causes a loss of Esx-1 activity. We show that the Esx-1 function was restored by nonsense suppression. Moreover, we identified a polar mutation in the ppsC gene which reduced cellular impermeability but did not impact cytotoxicity in macrophages. Our studies reveal insight into Esx-1 export, nonsense suppression, and cell envelope lipid biogenesis.
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