To survive a dynamic host environment, Mycobacterium tuberculosis must endure a series of challenges, from reactive oxygen and nitrogen stress to drastic shifts in oxygen availability. The mycobacterial Lsr2 protein has been implicated in reactive oxygen defense via direct protection of DNA. To examine the role of Lsr2 in pathogenesis and physiology of M. tuberculosis, we generated a strain deleted for lsr2. Analysis of the M. tuberculosis Δlsr2 strain demonstrated that Lsr2 is not required for DNA protection, as this strain was equally susceptible as the wild type to DNA-damaging agents. The lsr2 mutant did display severe growth defects under normoxic and hyperoxic conditions, but it was not required for growth under low-oxygen conditions. However, it was also required for adaptation to anaerobiosis. The defect in anaerobic adaptation led to a marked decrease in viability during anaerobiosis, as well as a lag in recovery from it. Gene expression profiling of the Δlsr2 mutant under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in conjunction with published DNA binding-site data indicates that Lsr2 is a global transcriptional regulator controlling adaptation to changing oxygen levels. The Δlsr2 strain was capable of establishing an early infection in the BALB/c mouse model; however, it was severely defective in persisting in the lungs and caused no discernible lung pathology. These findings demonstrate M. tuberculosis Lsr2 is a global transcriptional regulator required for control of genes involved in adaptation to extremes in oxygen availability and is required for persistent infection.
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