Visualizing pyrazinamide action by live single-cell imaging of phagosome acidification and Mycobacterium tuberculosis pH homeostasis

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Mycobacterium tuberculosis segregates within multiple subcellular niches with different biochemical and biophysical properties that, upon treatment, may impact antibiotic distribution, accumulation, and efficacy. However, it remains unclear whether fluctuating intracellular microenvironments alter mycobacterial homeostasis and contribute to antibiotic enrichment and efficacy. Here, we describe a live dual-imaging approach to monitor host subcellular acidification and M. tuberculosis intrabacterial pH. By combining this approach with pharmacological and genetic perturbations, we show that M. tuberculosis can maintain its intracellular pH independently of the surrounding pH in human macrophages. Importantly, unlike bedaquiline (BDQ), isoniazid (INH), or rifampicin (RIF), the drug pyrazinamide (PZA) displays antibacterial efficacy by disrupting M. tuberculosis intrabacterial pH homeostasis in cellulo. By using M. tuberculosis mutants, we confirmed that intracellular acidification is a prerequisite for PZA efficacy in cellulo. We anticipate this imaging approach will be useful to identify host cellular environments that affect antibiotic efficacy against intracellular pathogens. IMPORTANCE We still do not completely understand why tuberculosis (TB) treatment requires the combination of several antibiotics for up to 6 months. M. tuberculosis is a facultative intracellular pathogen, and it is still unknown whether heterogenous and dynamic intracellular populations of bacteria in different cellular environments affect antibiotic efficacy. By developing a dual live imaging approach to monitor mycobacterial pH homeostasis, host cell environment, and antibiotic action, we show here that intracellular localization of M. tuberculosis affects the efficacy of one first-line anti-TB drug. Our observations can be applicable to the treatment of other intracellular pathogens and help to inform the development of more effective combined therapies for tuberculosis that target heterogenous bacterial populations within the host.

Journal details

Journal mBio
Volume 13
Issue number 2
Pages e00117-22
Available online
Publication date

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