Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis kills about one million people annually. Michael Berney, Ph.D., has received a five-year, $2.5 million National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant to study phthiocerol dimycocerosate (PDIM), a lipid in the outermost layer of the M. tuberculosis cell envelope that strongly influences the bacterium’s virulence and resistance to drugs.
PDIMs form a barrier that protects Mtb from antimicrobial compounds and the host immune system. But paradoxically, culturing Mtb in the lab confers a growth advantage for spontaneously occurring PDIM-negative clones—confounding the experimental reliability, reproducibility, and interpretation of countless Mtb in vivo studies. Based on promising preliminary studies, Dr. Berney and colleagues will develop screening and selection tools aimed at eliminating the PDIM problem from Mtb research and better understanding the role of PDIMs in Mtb pathogenesis and drug tolerance.
Dr. Berney is an associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein. (1R01AI175972-01)
Posted on: Wednesday, February 22, 2023