Use of siRNA molecular beacons to detect and attenuate mycobacterial infection in macrophages.

Academic Article


  • Tuberculosis is one of the leading infectious diseases plaguing mankind and is mediated by the facultative pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). Once the pathogen enters the body, it subverts the host immune defenses and thrives for extended periods of time within the host macrophages in the lung granulomas, a condition called latent tuberculosis (LTB). Persons with LTB are prone to reactivation of the disease when the body's immunity is compromised. Currently there are no reliable and effective diagnosis and treatment options for LTB, which necessitates new research in this area. The mycobacterial proteins and genes mediating the adaptive responses inside the macrophage is largely yet to be determined. Recently, it has been shown that the mce operon genes are critical for host cell invasion by the mycobacterium and for establishing a persistent infection in both in vitro and in mouse models of tuberculosis. The YrbE and Mce proteins which are encoded by the MTB mce operons display high degrees of homology to the permeases and the surface binding protein of the ABC transports, respectively. Similarities in structure and cell surface location impute a role in cell invasion at cholesterol rich regions and immunomodulation. The mce4 operon is also thought to encode a cholesterol transport system that enables the mycobacterium to derive both energy and carbon from the host membrane lipids and possibly generating virulence mediating metabolites, thus enabling the bacteria in its long term survival within the granuloma. Various deletion mutation studies involving individual or whole mce operon genes have shown to be conferring varying degrees of attenuation of infectivity or at times hypervirulence to the host MTB, with the deletion of mce4A operon gene conferring the greatest degree of attenuation of virulence. Antisense technology using synthetic siRNAs has been used in knocking down genes in bacteria and over the years this has evolved into a powerful tool for elucidating the roles of various genes mediating infectivity and survival in mycobacteria. Molecular beacons are a newer class of antisense RNA tagged with a fluorophore/quencher pair and their use for in vivo detection and knockdown of mRNA is rapidly gaining popularity.
  • Keywords

  • Macrophages, Mammalian cell entry, Molecular beacons, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, siRNA
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • George R; Cavalcante R; Carvalho C; Marques E; Waugh JB; Unlap MT
  • Start Page

  • 164
  • End Page

  • 181
  • Volume

  • 5
  • Issue

  • 3