Genome-wide essentiality analysis of mycobacterium abscessus by saturated transposon mutagenesis and deep sequencing

Dalin Rifat, Liang Chen, Barry N. Kreiswirth, Eric L. Nuermberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacterium abscessus is an emerging opportunistic human pathogen that naturally resists most major classes of antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. Thus far, little is known about M. abscessus physiology, pathogenesis, and drug resistance. Genome-wide analyses have comprehensively catalogued genes with essential functions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominis-suis (here, M. avium) but not in M. abscessus. By optimizing transduction conditions, we achieved full saturation of TA insertion sites with Himar1 transposon mutagenesis in the M. abscessus ATCC 19977T genome, as confirmed by deep sequencing prior to essentiality analyses of annotated genes and other genomic features. The overall den-sities of inserted TA sites (85.7%), unoccupied TA sites (14.3%), and nonpermissive TA sites (8.1%) were similar to results in M. tuberculosis and M. avium. Of the 4,920 annotated genes, 326 were identified as essential, 269 (83%) of which have mutual homol-ogy with essential M. tuberculosis genes, while 39 (12%) are homologous to genes that are not essential in M. tuberculosis and M. avium, and 11 (3.4%) only have homologs in M. avium. Interestingly, 7 (2.1%) essential M. abscessus genes have no homologs in ei-ther M. tuberculosis or M. avium, two of which were found in phage-like elements. Most essential genes are involved in DNA replication, RNA transcription and translation, and posttranslational events to synthesize important macromolecules. Some essential genes may be involved in M. abscessus pathogenesis and antibiotics response, including certain essential tRNAs and new short open reading frames. Our findings will help to pave the way for better understanding of M. abscessus and benefit development of novel bactericidal drugs against M. abscessus. IMPORTANCE Limited knowledge regarding Mycobacterium abscessus pathogenesis and intrinsic resistance to most classes of antibiotics is a major obstacle to developing more effective strategies to prevent and mitigate disease. Using optimized procedures for Himar1 transposon mutagenesis and deep sequencing, we performed a comprehensive analysis to identify M. abscessus genetic elements essential for in vitro growth and compare them to similar data sets for M. tuberculosis and M. avium subsp. hominissuis. Most essential M. abscessus genes have mutual homology with essential M. tuberculosis genes, providing a foundation for leveraging available knowledge from M. tuberculosis to develop more effective drugs and other interventions against M. abscessus. A small number of essential genes unique to M. abscessus deserve further attention to gain insights into what makes M. abscessus different from other mycobacteria. The essential genes and other genomic features such as short open reading frames and noncoding RNA identified here will provide useful information for future study of M. abscessus pathogenicity and new drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01049-21
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Deep sequencing
  • Essential gene
  • Essential gene
  • Essentiality
  • Gene disruption
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Himar1 mutagenesis
  • Mycobacterium
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • Transposon
  • Transposon sequencing (Tn-Seq)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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