Genomic Analysis of Pathogenicity Determinants in Mycobacterium kansasii Type I

  • Qingtian Guan

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Mycobacteria, a genus within Actinobacteria Phylum, are well known for two pathogens that cause human diseases: leprosy and tuberculosis. Other than the obligate human mycobacteria, there is a group of bacteria that are present in the environment and occasionally cause diseases in immunocompromised persons: the non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (NTM). Mycobacterium kansasii, which was first discovered in the Kansas state, is the main etiologic agent responsible for lung infections caused by NTM and raises attention because of its co-infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Five subspecies of M. kansasii (Type I-V) were described and only M. kansasii Type I is pathogenic to humans. M. kansasii is a Gram-positive bacteria that has a unique cell wall and secretion system, which is essential for its pathogenicity. We undertook a comparative genomics and transcriptomic approach to identify components of M. kansasii Type I pathogenicity. Our previous study showed that espA (ESX-1 essential protein) operon, a major component of the secretion system, is exclusively present in M. kansasii Type I. The purpose of this study was to test the functional role of the espA operon in pathogenicity and identify other components that may also be involved in pathogenicity. This study provides a new molecular diagnostic method for M. kansasii Type I infection using PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technique to target the espAoperon. With detailed manual curation of the comparative genomics datasets, we found several genes exclusively present in M. kansasii Type I including ppsA/ppsC and whiB6, that we believe are involved, or have an effect on ESX-mediated secretion system. We have also highlighted, in our study, the differences in genetic components coding for the cell membrane composition between the five subspecies of M. kansasii. These results shed light on genetic components that are responsible for pathogenicity determinants in Type I M. kansasii and may help to design better control measures and rapid diagnostic tools for monitoring these group of pathogens.
Date of AwardMay 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorArnab Pain (Supervisor)


  • Mycobacteria
  • M. Kansasii
  • espA operon
  • Pathogenic Determinants
  • cell membrane
  • Cell Wall

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