The sudden increase in information derived from the completed Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) genome sequences has revealed the need for approaches capable of converting raw genome sequence data into functional information. To date, an experimental system for studying protein–protein association in mycobacteria is not available. We have developed a simple system, termed mycobacterial protein fragment complementation (M-PFC), that is based upon the functional reconstitution of two small murine dihydrofolate reductase domains independently fused to two interacting proteins. Using M-PFC, we have successfully demonstrated dimerization of yeast GCN4, interaction between Mtb KdpD and KdpE, and association between Esat-6 and Cfp-10. We established the association between the sensor kinase, DevS, and response regulator, DevR, thereby demonstrating the potential of M-PFC to study protein associations in the mycobacterial membrane. To validate our system, we screened an Mtb library for proteins that associate with the secreted antigen Cfp-10 and consistently identified Esat-6 in our screens. Additional proteins that specifically associate with Cfp-10 include Rv0686 and Rv2151c (FtsQ), a component and substrate, respectively, of the evolutionary conserved signal recognition pathway; and Rv3596c (ClpC1), an AAA-ATPase chaperone involved in protein translocation and quality control. Our results provide empirical evidence that directly links the Mtb specialized secretion pathway with the evolutionary conserved signal recognition and SecA/SecYEG pathways, suggesting they share secretory components. We anticipate that M-PFC will be a major contributor to the systematic assembly of mycobacterial protein interaction maps that will lead to the development of better strategies for the control of tuberculosis
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