Molecular Analysis of Sarcoidosis Granulomas Reveals Antimicrobial Targets

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Sarcoidosis is a granulomatous disease of unknown cause. Prior molecular and immunologic studies have confirmed the presence of mycobacterial virulence factors, such as catalase peroxidase and superoxide dismutase A, within sarcoidosis granulomas. Molecular analysis of granulomas can identify targets of known antibiotics classes. Currently, major antibiotics are directed against DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, and cell wall formation. We conducted molecular analysis of 40 sarcoidosis diagnostic specimens and compared them with 33 disease control specimens for the presence of mycobacterial genes that encode antibiotic targets. We assessed for genes involved in DNA synthesis (DNA gyrase A [gyrA] and DNA gyrase B), protein synthesis (RNA polymerase subunit β), cell wall synthesis (embCAB operon and enoyl reductase), and catalase peroxidase. Immunohistochemical analysis was conducted to investigate the locale of mycobacterial genes such as gyrA within 12 sarcoidosis specimens and 12 disease controls. Mycobacterial DNA was detected in 33 of 39 sarcoidosis specimens by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction compared with 2 of 30 disease control specimens (P < 0.001, two-tailed Fisher’s test). Twenty of 39 were positive for three or more mycobacterial genes, compared with 1 of 30 control specimens (P < 0.001, two-tailed Fisher’s test). Immunohistochemistry analysis localized mycobacterial gyrA nucleic acids to sites of granuloma formation in 9 of 12 sarcoidosis specimens compared with 1 of 12 disease controls (P < 0.01). Microbial genes encoding enzymes that can be targeted by currently available antimycobacterial antibiotics are present in sarcoidosis specimens and localize to sites of granulomatous inflammation. Use of antimicrobials directed against target enzymes may be an innovative treatment alternative.

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