Identifying Mycobacterium tuberculosis persistence genes is important for developing novel drugs to shorten the duration of tuberculosis (TB) treatment. We developed computational algorithms that predict M. tuberculosis genes required for long-term survival in mouse lungs. As the input, we used high-throughput M. tuberculosis mutant library screen data, mycobacterial global transcriptional profiles in mice and macrophages, and functional interaction networks. We selected 57 unique, genetically defined mutants (18 previously tested and 39 untested) to assess the predictive power of this approach in the murine model of TB infection. We observed a 6-fold enrichment in the predicted set of M. tuberculosis genes required for persistence in mouse lungs relative to randomly selected mutant pools. Our results also allowed us to reclassify several genes as required for M. tuberculosis persistence in vivo. Finally, the new results implicated additional high-priority candidate genes for testing. Experimental validation of computational predictions demonstrates the power of this systems biology approach for elucidating M. tuberculosis persistence genes.
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