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Summary

Pathogenic mycobacteria survive in phagocytic host cells primarily as a result of their ability to prevent fusion of their vacuole with lysosomes, thereby avoiding a bactericidal environment. The molecular mechanisms to establish and maintain this replication compartment are not well understood. By combining molecular and microscopical approaches we show here that after phagocytosis the actin nucleation-promoting factor WASH associates and generates F-actin on the mycobacterial vacuole. Disruption of WASH or depolymerization of F-actin leads to the accumulation of the proton-pumping V-ATPase around the mycobacterial vacuole, its acidification and reduces the viability of intracellular mycobacteria. This effect is observed for M. marinum in the model phagocyte Dictyostelium but also for M. marinum and M. tuberculosis in mammalian phagocytes. This demonstrates an evolutionarily conserved mechanism by which pathogenic mycobacteria subvert the actin-polymerization activity of WASH to prevent phagosome acidification and maturation, as a prerequisite to generate and maintain a replicative niche.