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Open Access Research article

The role of resuscitation promoting factors in pathogenesis and reactivation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis during intra-peritoneal infection in mice

Sergey Biketov1, Vasilii Potapov1, Elena Ganina1, Katrina Downing2, Bavesh D Kana2 and Arseny Kaprelyants3*

Author Affiliations

1 Scientific Research Center for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Moscow Region, Russia

2 MRC/NHLS/WITS Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, School of Pathology of the University of the Witwatersrand and the National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa

3 Bakh Institute of Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2007, 7:146  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-7-146

Published: 17 December 2007



Mycobacterium tuberculosis can enter into a dormant state which has resulted in one third of the world's population being infected with latent tuberculosis making the study of latency and reactivation of utmost importance. M. tuberculosis encodes five resuscitation promoting factors (Rpfs) that bear strong similarity to a lysozyme-like enzyme previously implicated in reactivation of dormant bacteria in vitro.

We have developed an intraperitoneal infection model in mice, with immune modulation, that models chronic infection with similar properties in mouse lungs as those observed in the murine aerosol infection model. We have assessed the behavior of mutants that lack two or three rpf genes in different combinations in our intraperitoneal model.


C57Bl/6 mice were intraperitonealy infected with H37Rv wild type M. tuberculosis or mutant strains that lacked two or three rpf genes in different combinations. After 90 days of infection aminoguanidine (AG) or anti-TNFα antibodies were administrated. Organ bacillary loads were determined at various intervals post infection by plating serial dilutions of organ homogenates and enumerating bacteria.


We found that the rpf triple and double mutants tested were attenuated in their ability to disseminate to mouse lungs after intraperitoneal administration and were defective in their ability to re-grow after immunosuppression induced by administration of aminoguanidine and anti-TNFα antibodies.


Rpf proteins may have a significant physiological role for development of chronic TB infection and its reactivation in vivo.