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Biochemical and Morphological Changes in Dormant (“Nonculturable”) Mycobacterium smegmatis Cells

E. G. Salina1*, Yu. A. Zhogina2, M. O. Shleeva1, G. M. Sorokoumova2, A. A. Selishcheva3, and A. S. Kaprelyants1

1Bach Institute of Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr. 33, 119071 Moscow, Russia; fax: (495) 954-2732; E-mail: elenasalina@mail.ru

2Lomonosov State Academy of Fine Chemical Technology, pr. Vernadskogo 86, 119571 Moscow, Russia; fax: (495) 434-8233; E-mail: Galinams@yandex.ru

3Faculty of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991 Moscow, Russia; fax: (495) 939-4309

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received December 12, 2008; Revision received March 18, 2009
Biochemical and morphological changes have been studied during transition of Mycobacterium smegmatis cells into their dormant (“nonculturable”) state. A significant fraction of the population of irreversibly “nonculturable” (NC) cells has a thicker cell wall, condensed cytoplasm, and a decreased number of ribosomes. The lipid contents in the NC cells are lower than in the metabolically active cells, with a relatively decreased amount of phospholipid and neutral lipid. Free mycolic acids, which are abundant in metabolically active cells, were not found in the NC cells. The NC forms are also characterized by decreased respiratory activity on endogenous substrates; however, the respiratory chain enzymes retain their activities in the isolated membranes. Activities of the Krebs cycle and glyoxylate cycle enzymes are markedly decreased. Despite a significant decrease in metabolic activity, NC cells possess membrane potential that seems to provide for reversibility of the NC state of mycobacteria, i.e. their capability of reactivating.
KEY WORDS: dormancy, “nonculturable” (NC) cells, latent tuberculosis infection, Mycobacterium smegmatis, M. tuberculosis

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297910010098