Pyrazinamide (PZA) is an important antituberculosis drug. Unlike most antibacterial agents, PZA, despite its remarkable in vivo activity, has no activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro except at an acidic pH. M. tuberculosis is uniquely susceptible to PZA, but other mycobacteria as well as nonmycobacteria are intrinsically resistant. The role of acidic pH in PZA action and the basis for the unique PZA susceptibility of M. tuberculosis are unknown. We found that in M. tuberculosis, acidic pH enhanced the intracellular accumulation of pyrazinoic acid (POA), the active derivative of PZA, after conversion of PZA by pyrazinamidase. In contrast, at neutral or alkaline pH, POA was mainly found outside M. tuberculosis cells. PZA- resistant M. tuberculosis complex organisms did not convert PZA into POA. Unlike M. tuberculosis, intrinsically PZA-resistant M. smegmatis converted PZA into POA, but it did not accumulate POA even at an acidic pH, due to a very active POA efflux mechanism. We propose that a deficient POA efflux mechanism underlies the unique susceptibility of M. tuberculosis to PZA and that the natural PZA resistance of M. smegmatis is due to a highly active efflux pump. These findings may have implications with regard to the design of new antimycobacterial drugs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology