Spatial relationships of intra-lesion heterogeneity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis microenvironment, replication status, and drug efficacy
PLoS Pathog. 2022 Mar 28;18(3):e1010459.
PMID: 35344572 | DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010459
A hallmark of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is the marked heterogeneity that exists, spanning lesion type differences to microenvironment changes as infection progresses. A mechanistic understanding of how this heterogeneity affects Mtb growth and treatment efficacy necessitates single bacterium level studies in the context of intact host tissue architecture; however, such an evaluation has been technically challenging. Here, we exploit fluorescent reporter Mtb strains and the C3HeB/FeJ murine model in an integrated imaging approach to study microenvironment heterogeneity within a single lesion in situ, and analyze how these differences relate to non-uniformity in Mtb replication state, activity, and drug efficacy. We show that the pH and chloride environments differ spatially even within a single caseous necrotic lesion, with increased acidity and chloride levels in the lesion cuff versus core. Strikingly, a higher percentage of Mtb in the lesion core versus cuff were in an actively replicating state, and correspondingly active in transcription/translation. Finally, examination of three first-line anti-tubercular drugs showed that isoniazid efficacy was conspicuously poor against Mtb in the lesion cuff. Our study reveals spatial relationships of intra-lesion heterogeneity, sheds light on important considerations in anti-tubercular treatment strategies, and establishes a foundational framework for Mtb infection heterogeneity analysis at the single bacterium level in situ.