Ultrastructural and Molecular Analyses of the Unique Features of Cell Division in Mycobacterium Tuberculosis and Mycobacterium Smegmatis
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The Mycobacterium genus contains major human pathogens, like Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae, which are the causative agents of Tuberculosis and Leprosy, respectively. They have evolved as successful human pathogens by adapting to the adverse conditions prevailing inside the host, which include host immune activation, nutrient depletion, hypoxia, and so on. During such adaptation for the survival and establishment of persistent infection inside the host, the pathogen, like M. tuberculosis, regulates its cell division. It is known that M. tuberculosis enters a state of non-replicating persistence (NRP) inside the host, to establish latent infection, which helps the survival of the pathogen under adverse host conditions such as hypoxia and nutrient depletion. The pathogen can reactivate itself, to come out of the NRP state, and establish active infection at a later stage, when conditions are suitable for its proliferation. The altered physiological state of the latent bacterium makes it tolerant to drugs, which are only effective against proliferating tubercle bacilli. In view of this unique behavioural physiology of tubercle bacilli, it is important to study the process of cell division and how it is regulated in the NRP and actively growing states. The work reported in the thesis is an attempt to understand these aspects of mycobacterial cell division. iii Chapter 1. Introduction: This chapter gives a detailed introduction to bacterial cell division and its regulation in various organisms, like Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Caulobacter crescentus, and others. In the background of this information, the major studies on mycobacterial cell division and its regulation are presented. Chapter 2. Materials and Methods: This chapter describes in detail all the materials and methods used in the experiments, which are presented in the four data chapters, 3-6. Chapter 3. Ultrastructural Study of the Formation of Septal Partition and Constriction in Mycobacteria and Delineation of its Unique Features: Mycobacteria have triple-layered complex cell wall, playing an important role in its survival under adverse conditions in the host. It is not known how these layers in the mother cell participate during cell division. Therefore, the ultrastructural changes in the different envelope layers of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium smegmatis, and Mycobacterium xenopi, during the process of septation and septal constriction, were studied, using Transmission and Scanning Electron Microscopy. The unique aspects of mycobacterial septation and constriction were identified and were compared with those of E. coli and Bacillus subtilis septation. Further, based on all these observations, models were proposed for septation in M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis. Chapter 4. Identification of Asymmetric Septation and Division in Mycobacteria and Its Role in Generating Cell Size Heterogeneity: Bacterial populations are known to harbour phenotypic heterogeneity that helps survival under stress conditions, as this heterogeneity comprises subpopulations that have differential susceptibility to stress conditions. The iv heterogeneity has been known to lead to the requirement for prolonged drug treatment for the elimination of the tolerant subpopulation. Hence, it is important to study the different mechanisms, which operate to generate population heterogeneity. Therefore, in this chapter, studies were carried out to find out whether asymmetric septation and division occur in mycobacteria to generate cell size heterogeneity. Subpopulations of mycobacterial mid-log phase cells of M. tuberculosis, M. smegmatis, and M. xenopi were found to undergo asymmetric division to generate cell size heterogeneity. The asymmetric division and the ultrastructure and growth features of the products of the division were studied. Chapter 5. Study of Mycobacterial Cell Division Using Growth-Synchronised Cells: In this chapter, different stages of cell septation and constriction were studied using growth-synchronised M. smegmatis cells. Phenethyl alcohol (PEA), which has been found to reversibly arrest mycobacterial cells, was used for growth synchronisation. The growth-synchronised mycobacterial cells, which were released from PEA block, were studied at different stages of septation and septal constriction, at the ultrastructural and molecular levels. Chapter 6. Identification of the Stage of Cell Division Arrest in NRP Mycobacteria: The exact stage at which the NRP tubercle bacilli are arrested in cell division is currently unknown. In Wayne’s in vitro model for hypoxia-responsive tubercle bacilli, gradual depletion of oxygen leads to hypoxic stress, inducing the bacilli to enter non-replicating persistence (NRP) state. Using this model, the stage of cell division arrest in M. tuberculosis was characterised at the ultrastructural and molecular levels. Hypoxia-stressed M. smegmatis was used as an experimental system for contrast. The thesis concludes with salient findings, a bibliography, and the list of publications.
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