Analysis of the changing mRNA expression profile of Mycobacterium tuberculosis though the course of infection promises to advance our understanding of how mycobacteria are able to survive the host immune response. The difficulties of sample extraction from distinct mycobacterial populations, and of measuring mRNA expression profiles of multiple genes has limited the impact of gene expression studies on our interpretation of this dynamic infection process. The development of whole genome microarray technology together with advances in sample collection have allowed the expression pattern of the whole M. tuberculosis genome to be compared across a number of different in vitro conditions, murine and human tissue culture models and in vivo infection samples. This review attempts to produce a summative model of the M. tuberculosis response to infection derived from or reflected in these gene expression datasets. The mycobacterial response to the intracellular environment is characterised by the utilisation of lipids as a carbon source and the switch from aerobic/microaerophilic to anaerobic respiratory pathways. Other genes induced in the macrophage phagosome include those likely to be involved in the maintenance of the cell wall and genes related to DNA damage, heat shock, iron sequestration and nutrient limitation. The comparison of transcriptional data from in vitro models of infection with complex in vivo samples, together with the use of bacterial RNA amplification strategies to sample defined populations of bacilli, should allow us to make conclusions about M. tuberculosis physiology and host microenvironments during natural infection.
Keywords: Intracellular, expression, microarray, transcriptomics, mycobacterium, macrophage, host pathogen interactions
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