The redox cofactor F420 protects mycobacteria from diverse antimicrobial compounds and mediates a reductive detoxification system

Thanavit Jirapanjawat, Blair Ney, Matthew C. Taylor, Andrew C. Warden, Shahana Afroze, Robyn J. Russell, Brendon M. Lee, Colin J. Jackson, John G. Oakeshott, Gunjan Pandey, Chris Greening*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    A defining feature of mycobacterial redox metabolism is the use of an unusual deazaflavin cofactor, F420. This cofactor enhances the persistence of environmental and pathogenic mycobacteria, including after antimicrobial treatment, although the molecular basis for this remains to be understood. In this work, we explored our hypothesis that F420 enhances persistence by serving as a cofactor in antimicrobial-detoxifying enzymes. To test this, we performed a series of phenotypic, biochemical, and analytical chemistry studies in relation to the model soil bacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis. Mutant strains unable to synthesize or reduce F420 were found to be more susceptible to a wide range of antibiotic and xenobiotic compounds. Compounds from three classes of antimicrobial compounds traditionally resisted by mycobacteria inhibited the growth of F420 mutant strains at subnanomolar concentrations, namely, furanocoumarins (e.g., methoxsalen), arylmethanes (e.g., malachite green), and quinone analogues (e.g., menadione). We demonstrated that promiscuous F420H2-dependent reductases directly reduce these compounds by a mechanism consistent with hydride transfer. Moreover, M. smegmatis strains unable to make F420H2 lost the capacity to reduce and detoxify representatives of the furanocoumarin and arylmethane compound classes in whole-cell assays. In contrast, mutant strains were only slightly more susceptible to clinical antimycobacterials, and this appeared to be due to indirect effects of F420 loss of function (e.g., redox imbalance) rather than loss of a detoxification system. Together, these data show that F420 enhances antimicrobial resistance in mycobacteria and suggest that one function of the F420H2-dependent reductases is to broaden the range of natural products that mycobacteria and possibly other environmental actinobacteria can reductively detoxify.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6810-6818
    Number of pages9
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Issue number23
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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