Fight against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection with cell wall enzymes

01 January 2014 → 31 December 2017
Regional and community funding: IWT/VLAIO
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Carbohydrates
    • Proteins
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Proteins
    • Infectious diseases
    • Molecular and cell biology not elsewhere classified
  • Engineering and technology
    • Biological system engineering not elsewhere classified
    • Medical molecular engineering of nucleic acids and proteins
Mycobacterium tuberculosis enzyme therapeutics drug susceptibility assay
Project description

IWT / SB-2014 batch of IWT /
IWT/ SB / van Schie Loes / 131545 Fight against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection with cell wall enzymes

Exploration of synergistic action of cell wall-degrading enzymes against Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Background The major global health threat tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Mtb has a complex cell envelope – a partially covalently linked composite of polysaccharides, peptidoglycan and lipids, including a mycolic acid layer – which conveys pathogenicity but also protects against antibiotics. Given previous successes in treating gram-positive and -negative infections with cell wall degrading enzymes, we investigated such approach for Mtb.

Objectives (i) Development of an Mtb microtiter growth inhibition assay that allows undisturbed cell envelope formation, to overcome the invalidation of results by typical clumped Mtb-growth in surfactant-free assays. (ii) Exploring anti-Mtb potency of cell wall layer-degrading enzymes. (iii) Investigation of the concerted action of several such enzymes.

Methods We inserted a bacterial luciferase-operon in an auxotrophic Mtb strain to develop a microtiter assay that allows proper evaluation of cell wall degrading anti-Mtb enzymes. We assessed growth-inhibition by enzymes (recombinant mycobacteriophage mycolic acid esterase (LysB), fungal α-amylase and human and chicken egg white lysozymes) and combinations thereof, in presence or absence of biopharmaceutically acceptable surfactant.

Results Our biosafety level-2 assay identified both LysB and lysozymes as potent Mtb-inhibitors, but only in presence of surfactant. Moreover, most potent disruption of the mycolic acid hydrophobic barrier was obtained by the highly synergistic combination of LysB, α-amylase and polysorbate 80.

Conclusions Synergistically acting cell wall degrading enzymes are potently inhibiting Mtb – which sets the scene for the design of specifically tailored antimycobacterial (fusion) enzymes. Airway delivery of protein therapeutics has already been established and should be studied in animal models for active TB.