Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 103, Issue 2, pp 843–851 | Cite as

Ethambutol targets the glutamate racemase of Mycobacterium tuberculosis—an enzyme involved in peptidoglycan biosynthesis

  • Alka Pawar
  • Prakash Jha
  • Chandrika Konwar
  • Uma Chaudhry
  • Madhu Chopra
  • Daman SalujaEmail author
Genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics


Increasing drug resistance in pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) has been ascribed to mutations in the known target genes. However, many of these drugs have multiple targets; some of which have not been identified so far. Understanding the mechanism of action of these drugs holds a great promise in better management of disease especially by drug-resistant strains. In this study, we report glutamate racemase (MurI), a crucial enzyme of phase I peptidoglycan (PG) biosynthesis pathway of MTB, as an additional target of ethambutol (EMB). The effect on EMB on the MurI protein at structural and functional level was studied using different spectroscopic, biochemical, and insilico approaches. Spectroscopic analysis revealed that EMB-modified protein undergoes conformational alterations. Furthermore, in vitro racemization studies of the MurI protein suggest that EMB decreases its functional activity. Docking studies revealed that EMB interacts with most of the active residues at the binding site and blocks the binding pocket. Overall, data suggests that EMB, a primary drug used for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), acts as a competitive inhibitor of substrate for binding to mycobacterial MurI protein. The study also points out to our lacunae in understanding the site and mechanism of action of existing drugs. Furthermore, glutamate racemase is a conserved protein of the bacterial kingdom; therefore, ethambutol could be a promising candidate as a broad-spectrum antibiotic for many other bacterial diseases.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis Glutamate racemase MurI Peptidoglycan Ethambutol d-glutamate 



The authors thank the Department of Science and Technology (DST) purse grant and MG grant to DS for financial support. The support from Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India for Bioinformatics Facility at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Center for Biomedical Research is highly acknowledged. Senior research fellowship to AP from Indian Council for Medical Research and DST-INSPIRE fellowship to PJ from DST is gratefully acknowledged.

Funding information

The project grants, purse grant and MG grant, were received by DST and University of Delhi. Fellowship and contingency grant was provided to AP from ICMR and PJ from DST.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2018_9518_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (767 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 766 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alka Pawar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Prakash Jha
    • 1
  • Chandrika Konwar
    • 1
  • Uma Chaudhry
    • 2
  • Madhu Chopra
    • 1
  • Daman Saluja
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Center for Biomedical ResearchUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia
  2. 2.Bhaskaracharya College of Applied SciencesUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia

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