Visualization of mycobacterial membrane dynamics in live cells

Frances P. Rodriguez-Rivera, Xiaoxue Zhou, Julie A. Theriot, Carolyn R. Bertozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacteria are endowed with a highly impermeable mycomembrane that confers intrinsic resistance to many antibiotics. Several unique mycomembrane glycolipids have been isolated and structurally characterized, but the underlying organization and dynamics of glycolipids within the cell envelope remain poorly understood. We report here a study of mycomembrane dynamics that was enabled by trehalose-fluorophore conjugates capable of labeling trehalose glycolipids in live actinomycetes. We identified fluorescein-trehalose analogues that are metabolically incorporated into the trehalose mycolates of representative Mycobacterium, Corynebacterium, Nocardia, and Rhodococcus species. Using these probes, we studied the mobilities of labeled glycolipids by time-lapse microscopy and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments and found that mycomembrane fluidity varies widely across species and correlates with mycolic acid structure. Finally, we discovered that treatment of mycobacteria with ethambutol, a front-line tuberculosis (TB) drug, significantly increases mycomembrane fluidity. These findings enhance our understanding of mycobacterial cell envelope structure and dynamics and have implications for development of TB drug cocktails.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3488-3495
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 8 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Visualization of mycobacterial membrane dynamics in live cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this