Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 36546765
Link to DOI – 10.1093/nar/gkac1173
Nucleic Acids Res 2023 Jan; 51(1): 144-165
The emergence of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains highlights the need to discover anti-tuberculosis drugs with novel mechanisms of action. Here we discovered a mycobactericidal strategy based on the prodrug activation of selected chemical derivatives classified as nitronaphthofurans (nNFs) mediated by the coordinated action of the sigH and mrx2 genes. The transcription factor SigH is a key regulator of an extensive transcriptional network that responds to oxidative, nitrosative, and heat stresses in M. tuberculosis. The nNF action induced the SigH stress response which in turn induced the mrx2 overexpression. The nitroreductase Mrx2 was found to activate nNF prodrugs, killing replicating, non-replicating and intracellular forms of M. tuberculosis. Analysis of SigH DNA sequences obtained from spontaneous nNF-resistant M. tuberculosis mutants suggests disruption of SigH binding to the mrx2 promoter site and/or RNA polymerase core, likely promoting the observed loss of transcriptional control over Mrx2. Mutations found in mrx2 lead to structural defects in the thioredoxin fold of the Mrx2 protein, significantly impairing the activity of the Mrx2 enzyme against nNFs. Altogether, our work brings out the SigH/Mrx2 stress response pathway as a promising target for future drug discovery programs.