PE_PGRS proteins are unique to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and a number of other pathogenic mycobacteria. PE_PGRS30, which is required for the full virulence of M. tuberculosis (Mtb), has three main domains, i.e. an N-terminal PE domain, repetitive PGRS domain and the unique C-terminal domain. To investigate the role of these domains, we expressed a GFP-tagged PE_PGRS30 protein and a series of its functional deletion mutants in different mycobacterial species (Mtb, Mycobacterium bovis BCG and Mycobacterium smegmatis) and analysed protein localization by confocal microscopy. We show that PE_PGRS30 localizes at the mycobacterial cell poles in Mtb and M. bovis BCG but not in M. smegmatis and that the PGRS domain of the protein strongly contributes to protein cellular localization in Mtb. Immunofluorescence studies further showed that the unique C-terminal domain of PE_PGRS30 is not available on the surface, except when the PGRS domain is missing. Immunoblot demonstrated that the PGRS domain is required to maintain the protein strongly associated with the non-soluble cellular fraction. These results suggest that the repetitive GGA-GGN repeats of the PGRS domain contain specific sequences that contribute to protein cellular localization and that polar localization might be a key step in the PE_PGRS30-dependent virulence mechanism.
- M. tuberculosis