Research Summary

Intermediate Fellowship research summary

Mycobacterium tuberculosis has established a long term association with its human host and in doing so has been aided by its metabolic plasticity. Its ability to survive in nutrient poor and seemingly nutrient rich environments within the host suggests the ability to sense, respond, and adapt for survival. One of the seemingly "nutrient rich" reservoir seems to be a fat rich caseous granuloma; this comprises of acellular necrotic caseum as well as lipid droplet rich macrophages. The importance of lipid utilization by mycobacteria in vivo has been very well documented.

Research in the last five years has revealed a dynamic role of lipid droplets in central metabolism and immunity. Components of M. tuberculosis cell wall and complex lipids have been shown to induce lipid droplet biogenesis. A close association between these organelles and mycobacteria in situ raise the possibility of modification of these organelles by the pathogen. Our research is aimed at understanding how this intracellular pathogen modulates these organelles for its survival and adaptation in a cellular system. We are asking questions that build a bimodal strategy to understand this phenomenon: how is the host lipid droplet modified in response to infection and how does the induced change affect mycobacterial metabolism?