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Single nucleotide variation catalogue from clinical isolates mapped on tertiary and quaternary structures of ESX-1–related proteins reveal critical regions as putative Mtb therapeutic targets

O Tzfadia(1) A Gijsbers(2) A Vujkovic(1) J Snobre(1) R Vargas(3) K Dewaele(1) C J Meehan(4) M Farhat(3) S Hakke(5) P Peters(5) B C de Jong(1) A Siroy(6) R Ravelli()

1:Institute of Tropical Medicine; 2:Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; 3:Harvard Medical School; 4:Nottingham Trent University; 5:Maastricht University; 6:Université de Bordeaux

Proteins encoded by the ESX-1 genes of interest are essential for full virulence in all Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (Mtbc) lineages, the pathogens causing the highest mortality worldwide. Identifying critical regions in these ESX-1–related proteins could provide preventive or therapeutic targets for Mtb infection, the game changer needed for tuberculosis control. We analysed a compendium of whole genome sequences of clinical Mtb isolates from all lineages from >32,000 patients and identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). When mutations corresponding to all non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nSNPs) were mapped on structural models of the ESX-1 proteins, fully conserved regions emerged. Some could be assigned to known quaternary structures, whereas others could be predicted to be involved in yet-to-be-discovered interactions. Some mutants had clonally expanded (found in >1% of the isolates): these mutants were mostly located at the surface of globular domains, remote from known intra- and inter-molecular protein–protein interactions. Fully conserved intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins were found, suggesting that these regions are crucial for the pathogenicity of the Mtbc. Altogether, our findings highlight fully conserved regions of proteins as attractive vaccine antigens and drug targets to control Mtb virulence. Extending this approach to the whole Mtb genome as well as other microorganisms will enhance vaccine development for various pathogens.

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