Hypoxia: a window into Mycobacterium tuberculosis latency


*E-mail david.sherman@sbri.org; Tel. (+1) 206 256 7200; Fax (+1) 206 256 7229.


Tuberculosis is a massive public health problem on a global scale and the success of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is linked to its ability to persist within humans for long periods without causing any overt disease symptoms. Hypoxia is predicted to be a key host-induced stress limiting growth of the pathogen in vivo. However, multiple studies in vitro and in vivo indicate that M. tuberculosis adapts to oxygen limitation by entering into a metabolically altered state, while awaiting the opportunity to reactivate. Molecular signatures of bacteria adapted to hypoxia in vitro are accumulating, although correlations to human disease are only now being established. Similarly, defining the mechanisms that control this adaptation is an active area of research. In this review we discuss the historical precedents linking hypoxia and latency, and the gathering knowledge of M. tuberculosis hypoxic responses. We also examine the role of these responses in tuberculosis latency, and identify promising avenues for future studies.