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Two Mycobacterium leprae genes, folP1 and folP2, encoding putative dihydropteroate synthases (DHPS), were studied for enzymatic activity and for the presence of mutations associated with dapsone resistance. Each gene was cloned and expressed in a folP knockout mutant of Escherichia coli (C600DeltafolP::Km(r)). Expression of M. leprae folP1 in C600DeltafolP::Km(r) conferred growth on a folate-deficient medium, and bacterial lysates exhibited DHPS activity. This recombinant displayed a 256-fold-greater sensitivity to dapsone (measured by the MIC) than wild-type E. coli C600, and 50-fold less dapsone was required to block (expressed as the 50% inhibitory concentration [IC(50)]) the DHPS activity of this recombinant. When the folP1 genes of several dapsone-resistant M. leprae clinical isolates were sequenced, two missense mutations were identified. One mutation occurred at codon 53, substituting an isoleucine for a threonine residue (T53I) in the DHPS-1, and a second mutation occurred in codon 55, substituting an arginine for a proline residue (P55R). Transformation of the C600DeltafolP::Km(r) knockout with plasmids carrying either the T53I or the P55R mutant allele did not substantially alter the DHPS activity compared to levels produced by recombinants containing wild-type M. leprae folP1. However, both mutations increased dapsone resistance, with P55R having the greatest affect on dapsone resistance by increasing the MIC 64-fold and the IC(50) 68-fold. These results prove that the folP1 of M. leprae encodes a functional DHPS and that mutations within this gene are associated with the development of dapsone resistance in clinical isolates of M. leprae. Transformants created with M. leprae folP2 did not confer growth on the C600DeltafolP::Km(r) knockout strain, and DNA sequences of folP2 from dapsone-susceptible and -resistant M. leprae strains were identical, indicating that this gene does not encode a functional DHPS and is not involved in dapsone resistance in M. leprae.

Citation

D L Williams, L Spring, E Harris, P Roche, T P Gillis. Dihydropteroate synthase of Mycobacterium leprae and dapsone resistance. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. 2000 Jun;44(6):1530-7

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PMID: 10817704

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