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Mycobacterium kansasii (Mk) is a resilient opportunistic human pathogen that causes tuberculosis-like chronic pulmonary disease and mortality stemming from comorbidities and treatment failure. The standard treatment of Mk infections requires costly, long-term, multidrug courses with adverse side effects. The emergence of drug-resistant isolates further complicates the already challenging drug therapy regimens and threatens to compromise the future control of Mk infections. Despite the increasingly recognized global burden of Mk infections, the biology of this opportunistic pathogen remains essentially unexplored. In particular, studies reporting gene function or generation of defined mutants are scarce. Moreover, no transposon (Tn) mutagenesis tool has been validated for use in Mk, a situation limiting the repertoire of genetic approaches available to accelerate the dissection of gene function and the generation of gene knockout mutants in this poorly characterized pathogen. In this study, we validated the functionality of a powerful Tn mutagenesis tool in Mk and used this tool in conjunction with a forward genetic screen to establish a previously unrecognized role of a conserved mycobacterial small RNA gene of unknown function in colony morphology features and biofilm formation. We also combined Tn mutagenesis with next-generation sequencing to identify 12,071 Tn insertions that do not compromise viability in vitro. Finally, we demonstrated the susceptibility of the Galleria mellonella larva to Mk, setting the stage for further exploration of this simple and economical infection model system to the study of this pathogen.


This work was originally published in Microbiology Open, available at DOI: 10.1002/mbo3.988

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (CC BY NC ND 4.0), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.



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