Knowledge of the metabolic pathways used by Mycobacterium tuberculosis during infection is important for understanding its nutrient requirements and host adaptation. However, uptake, the first step in the utilization of nutrients, is poorly understood for many essential nutrients, such as inorganic anions. Here, we show that M. tuberculosis utilizes nitrate as the sole nitrogen source, albeit at lower efficiency than asparagine, glutamate, and arginine. The growth of the porin triple mutant M. smegmatis ML16 in media with limiting amounts of nitrate and sulfate as sole nitrogen and sulfur sources, respectively, was delayed compared to that of the wild-type strain. The uptake of sulfate was 40-fold slower than that of the wild-type strain, indicating that the efficient uptake of these anions is dependent on porins. The uptake by M. tuberculosis of sulfate and phosphate was approximately 40- and 10-fold slower than that of M. smegmatis, respectively, which is consistent with the slower growth of M. tuberculosis. However, the uptake of these anions by M. tuberculosis is orders of magnitude faster than diffusion through lipid membranes, indicating that unknown outer membrane proteins are required to facilitate this process. © 2012, American Society for Microbiology.