Mycobacteria are known to acquire resistance to the antituberculous drug pyrazinamide (PZA) through mutations in the gene encoding pyrazinamidase (PZase), an enzyme that converts PZA into pyrazinoic acid, the presumed active form of PZA against bacteria. Additional mechanisms of resistance to the drug are known to exist but have not been fully investigated. Among these is the non-uptake of the pro-drug, a possibility investigated in the present study. The uptake mechanism of PZA, a requisite step for the activation of the pro-drug, was studied in The incorporation of [C]PZA by the bacilli was followed in both neutral and acidic environments since PZA activity is known to be optimal at acidic pH. By using a protonophore (carbonyl cyanide -chlorophenylhydrazone; CCCP), valinomycin, arsenate and low temperature, it was shown that an ATP-dependent transport system is involved in the uptake of PZA. Whilst the structurally analogous compound nicotinamide inhibited the transport system of PZA, other structurally related compounds such as pyrazinoic acid, isoniazid and cytosine did not. Acidic conditions were also without effect. Based on diffusion experiments in liposomes, it was found that PZA diffuses rapidly through membrane bilayers, faster than glycerol, whilst the presence of OmpATb, the porin-like protein of in proteoliposomes slightly increased the diffusion of the drug. This finding may explain why the cell wall mycolate hydrophobic layer does not represent the limiting step in the diffusion of PZA, as judged from comparative experiments using a strain and its isogenic mutant elaborating 40% less covalently linked mycolates. PZase activity, and PZA uptake and susceptibility in different mycobacterial species were compared. a naturally PZA-susceptible species, was the only species that exhibited both PZase activity and PZA uptake; no such correlation was observed with the four naturally resistant species examined. possessed a functional PZase but did not take up PZA; the reverse was true for the PZase-negative strain of used, with PZA uptake comparable to that of BCG and exhibited neither a PZase activity nor PZA uptake. These data clearly demonstrate that one of the mechanisms of resistance to PZA resides in the failure of strains to take up the drug, indicating that susceptibility to PZA in mycobacteria requires both the presence of a functional PZase and a PZA transport system. No correlation was observed between the occurrence and cellular location of PZase and of nicotinamidase in the strains examined, suggesting that one or both amides can be hydrolysed by other mycobacterial amidases.


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