Immune Targeting of Mycobacteria through Cell Surface Glycan Engineering

Priscilla Dzigba, Adrian K. Rylski, Isaac J. Angera, Nicholas Banahene, Herbert W. Kavunja, Mallary C. Greenlee-Wacker, Benjamin M. Swarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacteria and other organisms in the order Mycobacteriales cause a range of significant human diseases, including tuberculosis, leprosy, diphtheria, Buruli ulcer, and non-tuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) disease. However, the intrinsic drug tolerance engendered by the mycobacterial cell envelope undermines conventional antibiotic treatment and contributes to acquired drug resistance. Motivated by the need to augment antibiotics with novel therapeutic approaches, we developed a strategy to specifically decorate mycobacterial cell surface glycans with antibody-recruiting molecules (ARMs), which flag bacteria for binding to human-endogenous antibodies that enhance macrophage effector functions. Mycobacterium-specific ARMs consisting of a trehalose targeting moiety and a dinitrophenyl hapten (Tre-DNPs) were synthesized and shown to specifically incorporate into outer-membrane glycolipids of Mycobacterium smegmatis via trehalose metabolism, enabling recruitment of anti-DNP antibodies to the mycobacterial cell surface. Phagocytosis of Tre-DNP-modified M. smegmatis by macrophages was significantly enhanced in the presence of anti-DNP antibodies, demonstrating proof-of-concept that our strategy can augment the host immune response. Because the metabolic pathways responsible for cell surface incorporation of Tre-DNPs are conserved in all Mycobacteriales organisms but absent from other bacteria and humans, the reported tools may be enlisted to interrogate host-pathogen interactions and develop immune-targeting strategies for diverse mycobacterial pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1548-1556
Number of pages9
JournalACS Chemical Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 21 2023


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