Open Access Research article

Single nucleotide polymorphism in the genes of mce1 and mce4 operons of Mycobacterium tuberculosis: analysis of clinical isolates and standard reference strains

Rashmi Pasricha1, Amita Chandolia1, Prija Ponnan2, Neeraj Kumar Saini1, Sangeeta Sharma3, Madhu Chopra4, Mandira Varma Basil1, Vani Brahmachari4 and Mridula Bose1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, University of Delhi, Delhi-110007, India

2 Department of Biochemistry, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, University of Delhi, Delhi-110007, India

3 The Centre for Genomic Application, Okhla Industrial Area, Delhi-110020, India

4 Dr B.R. Ambedkar Center for Biomedical Research, University of Delhi, Delhi-110007, India

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-41

Published: 23 February 2011



The presence of four mammalian cell entry (mce) operons in Mycobacterium tuberculosis suggests the essentiality of the functions of the genes in these operons. The differential expression of the four mce operons in different phases of in vitro growth and in infected animals reported earlier from our laboratory further justifies the apparent redundancy for these genes in the genome.

Here we investigate the extent of polymorphism in eight genes in the mce1 and mce4 operons of M. tuberculosis from four standard reference strains (H37Rv, H37Ra, LVS (Low Virulent Strain) and BCG) and 112 clinical isolates varying in their drug susceptibility profile, analysed by direct sequencing and Sequenom MassARRAY platform.


We discovered 20 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the two operons. The comparative analysis of the genes of mce1 and mce4 operons revealed that yrbE1A [Rv0167] was most polymorphic in mce1 operon while yrbE4A [Rv3501c] and lprN [Rv3495c] had the highest number of SNPs in the mce4 operon. Of 20 SNPs, 12 were found to be nonsynonymous and were further analysed for their pathological relevance to M. tuberculosis using web servers PolyPhen and PMut, which predicted five deleterious nonsynonymous SNPs. A mutation from proline to serine at position 359 of the native Mce1A protein was most deleterious as predicted by both PolyPhen and PMut servers. Energy minimization of the structure of native Mce1A protein and mutated protein was performed using InsightII. The mutated Mce1A protein showed structural changes that could account for the effects of this mutation.


Our results show that SNPs in the coding sequences of mce1 and mce4 operons in clinical isolates can be significantly high. Moreover, mce4 operon is significantly more polymorphic than mce1 operon (p < 0.001). However, the frequency of nonsynonymous substitutions is higher in mce1 operon and synonymous substitutions are more in mce4 operon. In silico modeling predict that nonsynonymous SNP at mce1A [Rv0169], a virulence gene could play a pivotal role in causing functional changes in M. tuberculosis that may reflect upon the biology of the bacteria.