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Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer, is the third most common mycobacterial disease after tuberculosis and leprosy. The present treatment options are limited and emergence of treatment resistant isolates represents a serious concern and a need for better therapeutics. Conventional drug discovery methods are time consuming and labor-intensive. Unfortunately, the slow growing nature of M. ulcerans in experimental conditions is also a barrier for drug discovery and development. In contrast, recent advancements in complete genome sequencing, in combination with cheminformatics and computational biology, represent an attractive alternative approach for the identification of therapeutic candidates worthy of experimental research. A computational, comparative genomics workflow was defined for the identification of novel therapeutic candidates against M. ulcerans, with the aim that a selected target should be essential to the pathogen, and have no homology in the human host. Initially, a total of 424 genes were predicted as essential from the M. ulcerans genome, via homology searching of essential genome content from 20 different bacteria. Metabolic pathway analysis showed that the most essential genes are associated with carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. Among these, 236 proteins were identified as non-host and essential, and could serve as potential drug and vaccine candidates. Several drug target prioritization parameters including druggability were also calculated. Enzymes from several pathways are discussed as potential drug targets, including those from cell wall synthesis, thiamine biosynthesis, protein biosynthesis, and histidine biosynthesis. It is expected that our data will facilitate selection of M. ulcerans proteins for successful entry into drug design pipelines.


Azeem Mehmood Butt, Izza Nasrullah, Shifa Tahir, Yigang Tong. Comparative genomics analysis of Mycobacterium ulcerans for the identification of putative essential genes and therapeutic candidates. PloS one. 2012;7(8):e43080

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PMID: 22912793

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