Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains exhibit differential and strain-specific molecular signatures in pulmonary epithelial cells

Nontobeko Eunice Mvubu, Balakrishna Pillay, Junaid Gamieldien, William Ramses Bishai, Manormoney Pillay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although pulmonary epithelial cells are integral to innate and adaptive immune responses during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, global transcriptomic changes in these cells remain largely unknown. Changes in gene expression induced in pulmonary epithelial cells infected with M. tuberculosis F15/LAM4/KZN, F11, F28, Beijing and Unique genotypes were investigated by RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq). The Illumina HiSeq 2000 platform generated 50 bp reads that were mapped to the human genome (Hg19) using Tophat (2.0.10). Differential gene expression induced by the different strains in infected relative to the uninfected cells was quantified and compared using Cufflinks (2.1.0) and MeV (4.0.9), respectively. Gene expression varied among the strains with the total number of genes as follows: F15/LAM4/KZN (1187), Beijing (1252), F11 (1639), F28 (870), Unique (886) and H37Rv (1179). A subset of 292 genes was commonly induced by all strains, where 52 genes were down-regulated while 240 genes were up-regulated. Differentially expressed genes were compared among the strains and the number of induced strain-specific gene signatures were as follows: F15/LAM4/KZN (138), Beijing (52), F11 (255), F28 (55), Unique (186) and H37Rv (125). Strain-specific molecular gene signatures associated with functional pathways were observed only for the Unique and H37Rv strains while certain biological functions may be associated with other strain signatures. This study demonstrated that strains of M. tuberculosis induce differential gene expression and strain-specific molecular signatures in pulmonary epithelial cells. Specific signatures induced by clinical strains of M. tuberculosis can be further explored for novel host-associated biomarkers and adjunctive immunotherapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-329
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental and Comparative Immunology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016



  • Differential gene expression
  • Molecular signatures
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary epithelial cells
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Developmental Biology

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