SufB intein of Mycobacterium tuberculosis as a sensor for oxidative and nitrosative stresses. Academic Article uri icon


  • Inteins are mobile genetic elements that self-splice at the protein level. Mycobacteria have inteins inserted into several important genes, including those corresponding to the iron-sulfur cluster assembly protein SufB. Curiously, the SufB inteins are found primarily in mycobacterial species that are potential human pathogens. Here we discovered an exceptional sensitivity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis SufB intein splicing to oxidative and nitrosative stresses when expressed in Escherichia coli. This effect results from predisposition of the intein's catalytic cysteine residues to oxidative and nitrosative modifications. Experiments with a fluorescent reporter system revealed that reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species inhibit SufB extein ligation by forcing either precursor accumulation or N-terminal cleavage. We propose that splicing inhibition is an immediate, posttranslational regulatory response that can be either reversible, by inducing precursor accumulation, or irreversible, by inducing N-terminal cleavage, which may potentially channel mycobacteria into dormancy under extreme oxidative and nitrosative stresses.

publication date

  • August 18, 2015