Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes tuberculosis (TB), one of the world's most deadly infections. Lipids play an important role in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis. M. tuberculosis grows intracellularly within lipid-laden macrophages and extracellularly within the cholesterol-rich caseum of necrotic granulomas and pulmonary cavities. Evolved from soil saprophytes that are able to metabolize cholesterol from organic matter in the environment, M. tuberculosis inherited an extensive and highly conserved machinery to metabolize cholesterol. M. tuberculosis uses this machinery to degrade host cholesterol; the products of cholesterol degradation are incorporated into central carbon metabolism and used to generate cell envelope lipids, which play important roles in virulence. The host also modifies cholesterol by enzymatically oxidizing it to a variety of derivatives, collectively called oxysterols, which modulate cholesterol homeostasis and the immune response. Recently, we found that M. tuberculosis converts host cholesterol to an oxidized metabolite, cholestenone, that accumulates in the lungs of individuals with TB. M. tuberculosis encodes cholesterol-modifying enzymes, including a hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, a putative cholesterol oxidase, and numerous cytochrome P450monooxygenases. Here, we review what is known about cholesterol and its oxidation products in the pathogenesis of TB. We consider the possibility that the biological function of cholesterol metabolism by M. tuberculosis extends beyond a nutritional role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E00042
JournalImmunometabolism (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024


  • 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
  • cholesterol
  • cholesterol oxidase
  • immunometabolism
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • oxysterols
  • TB


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