Mycobacterium tuberculosis WhiB3: A novel iron-sulfur cluster protein that regulates redox homeostasis and virulence

Academic Article


  • Significance: Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), can persist in a latent state for decades without causing overt disease. Since latent Mtb is refractory to current antimycobacterial drugs, the discovery and characterization of the biological mechanisms controlling the entry, maintenance, and emergence from latent infection is critical to the development of novel clinical therapies. Recent Advances: Recently, Mtb WhiB3, a member of the family of intracellular iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster proteins has emerged as a redox sensor and effector molecule controlling several aspects of Mtb virulence. WhiB3 was shown to contain a 4Fe-4S cluster that specifically reacts with important host gases (O 2 and NO), and exogenous and endogenous metabolic signals to maintain redox balance. Notably, the concept of reductive stress emerged from studies on WhiB3. Critical Issues: The detailed mechanism of how WhiB3 functions as an intracellular redox sensor is unknown. Sustaining Mtb redox balance is particularly important since the bacilli encounter a large number of redox stressors during infection, and because several antimycobacterial prodrugs are effective only upon bioreductive activation in the mycobacterial cytoplasm. Future Directions: How Mtb WhiB3 monitors its internal and external surroundings and modulates endogenous oxido-reductive pathways which in turn alter Mtb signal transduction, nucleic acid and protein synthesis, and enzymatic activation, is mostly unexplored. Modern expression, metabolomic and proteomic technologies should provide fresh insights into these yet unanswered questions. © 2012, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Saini V; Farhana A; Steyn AJC
  • Start Page

  • 687
  • End Page

  • 697
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 7