Characteristics of compensatory mutations in the rpoC gene and their association with compensated transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis


The aim of this study was to characterize rpoC gene mutations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and investigate the factors associated with rpoC mutations and the relation between rpoC mutations and tuberculosis (TB) transmission. A total of 245 MTB clinical isolates from patients with TB in six provinces and two municipalities in China were characterized based on gene mutations through DNA sequencing of rpoC and rpoB genes, phenotyping via standard drug susceptibility testing, and genotypic profiling by mycobacterial interspersed repetitive unit-variable number tandem repeat (MIRU-VNTR) typing. Approximately 36.4% of the rifampin-resistant isolates harbored nonsynonymous mutations in the rpoC gene. Twenty-nine nonsynonymous single mutations and three double mutations were identified. The rpoC mutations at locus 483 (11.3%) were predominant, and the mutations at V483G, W484G, I491V, L516P, L566R, N698K, and A788E accounted for 54.5% of the total detected mutations. Fifteen new mutations in the rpoC gene were identified. Rifampin resistance and rpoB mutations at locus 531 were significantly associated with rpoC mutations. MIRU-VNTR genotype results indicated that 18.4% of the studied isolates were clustered, and the rpoC mutations were not significantly associated with MIRU-VNTR clusters. A large proportion of rpoC mutation was observed in the rifampicin-resistant MTB isolates. However, the findings of this study do not support the association of rpoC mutation with compensated transmissibility.

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This work was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project (No. 2018ZX10103001) and the National Basic Research Program of China (No. 2014CB744403).

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Correspondence to Yanlin Zhao.

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Compliance with ethics guidelines

Shengfen Wang, Yang Zhou, Bing Zhao, Xichao Ou, Hui Xia, Yang Zheng, Yuanyuan Song, Qian Cheng, Xinyang Wang, and Yanlin Zhao declare that they have no conflict of interest. This study was approved by the ethical review board of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants involved in this study.

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Wang, S., Zhou, Y., Zhao, B. et al. Characteristics of compensatory mutations in the rpoC gene and their association with compensated transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Front. Med. (2020).

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  • tuberculosis
  • drug resistance
  • compensatory mutations
  • transmission