Mycolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis modulate the flow of cholesterol for bacillary proliferation in murine macrophages

Ilke Vermeulen, Mark Baird, Juma Al-Dulayymi, Muriel Smet, Jan Verschoor, Johan Grooten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The differentiation of macrophages into lipidfilled foam cells is a hallmark of the lung granuloma that forms in patients with active tuberculosis (TB). Mycolic acids (MAs), the abundant lipid virulence factors in the cell wall of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), can induce this foam phenotype possibly as a way to perturb host cell lipid homeostasis to support the infection. It is not exactly clear how MAs allow differentiation of foam cells during Mtb infection. Here we investigated how chemically synthetic MAs, each with a defined stereochemistry similar to natural Mtbassociated mycolates, influence cell foamy phenotype and mycobacterial proliferation in murine host macrophages. Using light and laser-scanning-confocal microscopy, we assessed the influence of MA structure first on the induction of granuloma cell types, second on intracellular cholesterol accumulation, and finally on mycobacterial growth. While methoxy-MAs (mMAs) effected multi-vacuolar giant cell formation, keto-MAs (kMAs) induced abundant intracellular lipid droplets that were packed with esterified cholesterol. Macrophages from mice treated with kMA were permissive to mycobacterial growth, whereas cells from mMA treatment were not. This suggests a separate yet key involvement of oxygenated MAs in manipulating host cell lipid homeostasis to establish the state of TB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-718
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Confocal microscopy
  • Foam cell
  • Infection
  • Lipid droplets
  • Liver X receptor
  • Mycolic acid
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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