The role of low molecular weight thiols in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

C. Sao Emani*, J. L. Gallant, I. J. Wiid, B. Baker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Low molecular weight (LMW)thiols are molecules with a functional sulfhydryl group that enable them to detoxify reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species and other free radicals. Their roles range from their ability to modulate the immune system to their ability to prevent damage of biological molecules such as DNA and proteins by protecting against oxidative, nitrosative and acidic stress. LMW thiols are synthesized and found in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Due to their beneficial role to both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, their specific functions need to be elucidated, most especially in pathogenic prokaryotes such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), in order to provide a rationale for targeting their biosynthesis for drug development. Ergothioneine (ERG), mycothiol (MSH)and gamma-glutamylcysteine (GGC)are LMW thiols that have been shown to interplay to protect M.tb against cellular stress. Though ERG, MSH and GGC seem to have overlapping functions, studies are gradually revealing their unique physiological roles. Understanding their unique physiological role during the course of tuberculosis (TB)infection, would pave the way for the development of drugs that target their biosynthetic pathway. This review identifies the knowledge gap in the unique physiological roles of LMW thiols and proposes their mechanistic roles based on previous studies. In addition, it gives an update on identified inhibitors of their biosynthetic enzymes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-55
Number of pages12
Early online date23 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


This study was supported by the South African Medical Research Council ( SAMRC ) and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research. James Luke Gallant was supported by the NRF-VU Desmond Tutu Doctoral Training Program. Authors also would like to thank the reviewer of this article for his thorough assessment, guide and advices.

FundersFunder number
DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research
South African Medical Research Council


    • Drug targets
    • ERG
    • GGC
    • LMW thiols
    • Mechanistic roles
    • MSH


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