JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results





Immunology and Infection

Analysis of the Lipid Composition of Mycobacteria by Thin Layer Chromatography

Published: April 16th, 2021



1Departament de Genètica i de Microbiologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

A protocol is presented to extract the total lipid content of the cell wall of a wide range of mycobacteria. Moreover, extraction and analytical protocols of the different types of mycolic acids are shown. A thin-layer chromatographic protocol to monitor these mycobacterial compounds is also provided.

Mycobacteria species can differ from one another in the rate of growth, presence of pigmentation, the colony morphology displayed on solid media, as well as other phenotypic characteristics. However, they all have in common the most relevant character of mycobacteria: its unique and highly hydrophobic cell wall. Mycobacteria species contain a membrane-covalent linked complex that includes arabinogalactan, peptidoglycan, and long-chains of mycolic acids with types that differ between mycobacteria species. Additionally, mycobacteria can also produce lipids that are located, non-covalently linked, on their cell surfaces, such as phthiocerol dimycocerosates (PDIM), phenolic glycolipids (PGL), glycopeptidolipids (GPL), acyltrehaloses (AT), or phosphatidil-inositol mannosides (PIM), among others. Some of them are considered virulence factors in pathogenic mycobacteria, or critical antigenic lipids in host-mycobacteria interaction. For these reasons, there is a significant interest in the study of mycobacterial lipids due to their application in several fields, from understanding their role in the pathogenicity of mycobacteria infections, to a possible implication as immunomodulatory agents for the treatment of infectious diseases and other pathologies such as cancer. Here, a simple approach to extract and analyze the total lipid content and the mycolic acid composition of mycobacteria cells grown in a solid medium using mixtures of organic solvents is presented. Once the lipid extracts are obtained, thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is performed to monitor the extracted compounds. The example experiment is performed with four different mycobacteria: the environmental fast-growing Mycolicibacterium brumae and Mycolicibacterium fortuitum, the attenuated slow-growing Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), and the opportunistic pathogen fast-growing Mycobacterium abscessus, demonstrating that methods shown in the present protocol can be used to a wide range of mycobacteria.

Mycobacterium is a genus that comprises pathogenic and non-pathogenic species, characterized by having a highly hydrophobic and impermeable cell wall formed by their peculiar lipids. Specifically, the mycobacterial cell wall contains mycolic acids, which are α-alkyl and β-hydroxy fatty acids, in which the α-branch is constant in all mycolic acids (except for the length) and the β-chain, called the meromycolate chain, is a long aliphatic chain that may contain different functional chemical groups described along with the literature (α-, α'-, methoxy-, κ-, epoxy-, carboxy-, and ω-1-methoxy- mycolates), therefore produ....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

1. Extraction of the total non-covalent-linked lipids from mycobacteria (Figure 1)

  1. Scratch 0.2 g of mycobacteria from a solid media and add to a glass tube with a polytetrafluoroethlene (PTFE) liner screw caps. Add a solution consisting of 5 mL of chloroform and 10 mL of methanol (chloroform:methanol, 1:2).
    NOTE: When organic solvents are used, only glass recipient should be used. No plastic containers are allowed. Moreover, PTFE liner screw caps for bottles are needed.

    Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

With the aim of showing a wide range of lipids present in different mycobacteria species, M. bovis BCG was selected as it is rough and slow-growing mycobacteria. The rough and fast-growing M. fortuitum and M. brumae were added in the procedure and, finally, the smooth morphotype of M. abscessus was also included. These four species permit us to visualize a broad spectrum of mycobacteria-derived lipids such as acyltrehaloses (AT), GPLs, PDIM, PGL, PIM, TDM, and TMM. Moreover, all four s.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

A simple protocol considered as the gold standard method for the extraction of noncovalently linked lipid compounds from the mycobacterial cell wall is presented. Further visualization by one- and two-dimensional TLCs from the extracted lipids of four different mycobacteria is shown.

Two consecutive combined mixtures of chloroform and methanol to recover the lipidic content of mycobacterial cells is the most widely used solvent mixture23,24<.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

This research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (RTI2018-098777-B-I00), the FEDER Funds, and the Generalitat of Catalunya (2017SGR-229). Sandra Guallar-Garrido is the recipient of a PhD contract (FI) from the Generalitat de Catalunya.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Acetic Acid Merck 100063 CAUTION. Anhydrous for analysis EMSURE® ACS,ISO,Reag. Ph Eur
Acetone Carlo Erba 400971N CAUTION. ACETONE RPE-ACS-ISO FOR ANALYS ml 1000
Anthrone Merck 8014610010 Anthrone for synthesis.
Benzene Carlo Erba 426113 CAUTION. Benzene RPE - For analysis - ACS 2.5 l
Capillary glass tube Merck BR708709 BRAND® disposable BLAUBRAND® micropipettes, intraMark
Chloroform Carlo Erba 412653 CAUTION. Chloroform RS - For HPLC - Isocratic grade - Stabilized with ethanol 2.5 L
Dry block heater J.P. Selecta 7471200
Dicloromethane Carlo Erba 412622 CAUTION. Dichloromethane RS - For HPLC - Isocratic grade - Stabilized with amylene 2.5 L
Diethyl ether Carlo Erba 412672 CAUTION. Diethyl ether RS - For HPLC - Isocratic grade - Not stabilized 2.5 L
Ethyl Acetate Panreac 1313181211 CAUTION. Ethyl acetate (Reag. USP, Ph. Eur.) for analysis, ACS, ISO
Ethyl Alcohol Absolute Carlo Erba 4146072 CAUTION. Ethanol absolute anhydrous RPE - For analysis - ACS - Reag. Ph.Eur. - Reag. USP 1 L
Glass funnel VidraFOC DURA.2133148 1217/1
Glass tube VidraFOC VFOC.45066A-16125 Glass tube with PTFE recovered cap
Methanol Carlo Erba 412722 CAUTION. Methanol RS - For HPLC - GOLD - Ultragradient grade 2.5 L
Molybdatophosphoric acid hydrate Merck 51429-74-4 CAUTION.
Molybdenum Blue Spray Reagent, 1.3% Sigma M1942-100ML CAUTION.
n-hexane Carlo Erba 446903 CAUTION. n-Hexane 99% RS - ATRASOL - For traces analysis 2.5 L
n-nitroso-n-methylurea Sigma N4766 CAUTION
Orbital shaking platform DDBiolab 995018 NB-205L benchtop shaking incubator
Petroleum ether (60-80ºC) Carlo Erba 427003 CAUTION. Petroleum ether 60 - 80°C RPE - For analysis 2.5 L
Sprayer VidraFOC 712/1
Sodium sulphate anhydrous Merck 238597
Sulfuric acid 95-97% Merck 1007311000 CAUTION. Sulfuric acid 95-97%
TLC chamber Merck Z204226-1EA Rectangular TLC developing tanks, complete L × H × W 22 cm × 22 cm × 10 cm
TLC plate Merck 1057210001 TLC SilicaGel 60- 20x20 cm x 25 u
TLC Plate Heater CAMAG 223306 CAMAG TLC Plat Heater III
Toluene Carlo Erba 488551 CAUTION. Toluene RPE - For analysis - ISO - ACS - Reag.Ph.Eur. - Reag.USP 1 L
Vortex Fisher Scientific 10132562 IKA Agitador IKA vórtex 3
1-naphthol Sigma-Aldrich 102269427 CAUTION.

  1. Watanabe, M., et al. Location of functional groups in mycobacterial meromycolate chains; the recognition of new structural principles in mycolic acids. Microbiology. 148 (6), 1881-1902 (2002).
  2. Global Health Organization World Health Organization. (2018) Global tuberculosis report. WHO. , (2019).
  3. Jackson, M. The Mycobacterial cell envelope-lipids. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 4 (10), 1-36 (2014).
  4. Jankute, M., et al. The role of hydrophobicity in tuberculosis evolution and pathogenicity. Scientific Reports. 7 (1), 1315 (2017).
  5. Reed, M. B., Gagneux, S., DeRiemer, K., Small, P. M., Barry, C. E. The W-Beijing lineage of Mycobacterium tuberculosis overproduces triglycerides and has the DosR dormancy regulon constitutively upregulated. Journal of Bacteriology. 189 (7), 2583-2589 (2007).
  6. Ly, A., Liu, J. Mycobacterial virulence factors: Surface-exposed lipids and secreted proteins. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21 (11), 3985 (2020).
  7. Szulc-Kielbik, I., et al. Severe inhibition of lipooligosaccharide synthesis induces TLR2-dependent elimination of Mycobacterium marinum from THP1-derived macrophages. Microbial Cell Factories. 16 (1), 217 (2017).
  8. Ren, H., et al. Identification of the lipooligosaccharide biosynthetic gene cluster from Mycobacterium marinum. Molecular Microbiology. 63 (5), 1345-1359 (2007).
  9. Roux, A. L., et al. The distinct fate of smooth and rough Mycobacterium abscessus variants inside macrophages. Open Biology. 6 (11), 160185 (2016).
  10. Guallar-Garrido, S., Julián, E. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) therapy for bladder cancer: An update. ImmunoTargets and Therapy. 9, 1-11 (2020).
  11. Bach-Griera, M., et al. Mycolicibacterium brumae is a safe and non-toxic immunomodulatory agent for cancer treatment. Vaccines. 8 (2), 2-17 (2020).
  12. Noguera-Ortega, E., et al. Nonpathogenic Mycobacterium brumae inhibits bladder cancer growth in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo. European Urology Focus. 2 (1), 67-76 (2015).
  13. Noguera-Ortega, E., et al. Mycobacteria emulsified in olive oil-in-water trigger a robust immune response in bladder cancer treatment. Scientific Reports. 6, 27232 (2016).
  14. Rodríguez-Güell, E., et al. The production of a new extracellular putative long-chain saturated polyester by smooth variants of Mycobacterium vaccae interferes with Th1-cytokine production. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 90, 93-108 (2006).
  15. Garcia-Vilanova, A., Chan, J., Torrelles, J. B. Underestimated manipulative roles of Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell envelope glycolipids during infection. Frontiers in Immunology. 10, (2019).
  16. Yang, L., et al. Changes in the major cell envelope components of Mycobacterium tuberculosis during in vitro growth. Glycobiology. 23 (8), 926-934 (2013).
  17. Guallar-Garrido, S., Campo-Pérez, V., Sánchez-Chardi, A., Luquin, M., Julián, E. Each mycobacterium requires a specific culture medium composition for triggering an optimized immunomodulatory and antitumoral effect. Microorganisms. 8 (5), 734 (2020).
  18. Venkataswamy, M. M., et al. et al. In vitro culture medium influences the vaccine efficacy of Mycobacterium bovis BCG. Vaccine. 30 (6), 1038-1049 (2012).
  19. Secanella-Fandos, S., Luquin, M., Pérez-Trujillo, M., Julián, E. Revisited mycolic acid pattern of Mycobacterium confluentis using thin-layer chromatography. Journal of Chromatography B. 879, 2821-2826 (2011).
  20. Minnikin, D. E., et al. Analysis of mycobacteria mycolic acids. Topics in Lipid Research: From Structural Elucidation to Biological Function. , 139-143 (1986).
  21. Minnikin, D. E., Hutchinson, I. G., Caldicott, A. B., Goodfellow, M. Thin-layer chromatography of methanolysates of mycolic acid-containing bacteria. Journal of Chromatography A. 188 (1), 221-233 (1980).
  22. Minnikin, D. E., Goodfellow, M. Lipid composition in the classification and identification of acid-fast bacteria. Society for Applied Bacteriology Symposium Series. 8, 189-256 (1980).
  23. Muñoz, M., et al. Occurrence of an antigenic triacyl trehalose in clinical isolates and reference strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. FEMS Microbiology Letters. 157 (2), 251-259 (1997).
  24. Daffé, M., Lacave, C., Lanéelle, M. A., Gillois, M., Lanéelle, G. Polyphthienoyl trehalose, glycolipids specific for virulent strains of the tubercle bacillus. European Journal of Biochemistry. 172 (3), 579-584 (1988).
  25. Singh, P., et al. Revisiting a protocol for extraction of mycobacterial lipids. International Journal of Mycobacteriology. 3 (3), 168-172 (2014).
  26. Camacho, L. R., et al. Analysis of the phthiocerol dimycocerosate locus of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Evidence that this lipid is involved in the cell wall permeability barrier. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 276 (23), 19845-19854 (2001).
  27. Dhariwal, K. R., Chander, A., Venkitasubramanian, T. A. Alterations in lipid constituents during growth of Mycobacterium smegmatis CDC 46 and Mycobacterium phlei ATCC 354. Microbios. 16 (65-66), 169-182 (1976).
  28. Chandramouli, V., Venkitasubramanian, T. A. Effect of age on the lipids of mycobacteria. Indian Journal of Chest Diseases & Allied Sciences. 16, 199-207 (1982).
  29. Hameed, S., Sharma, S., Fatima, Z. Techniques to understand mycobacterial lipids and use of lipid-based nanoformulations for tuberculosis management. NanoBioMedicine. , (2020).
  30. Folch, J., Lees, M., Sloane Stanley, G. H. A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipides from animal tissues. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 226 (1), 497-509 (1957).
  31. Pal, R., Hameed, S., Kumar, P., Singh, S., Fatima, Z. Comparative lipidome profile of sensitive and resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain. International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences. 1 (1), 189-197 (2015).
  32. Slayden, R. A., Barry, C. E. Analysis of the lipids of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mycobacterium tuberculosis Protocols. 54, 229-245 (2001).
  33. Ojha, A. K., et al. Growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis biofilms containing free mycolic acids and harbouring drug-tolerant bacteria. Molecular Microbiology. 69 (1), 164-174 (2008).
  34. Ojha, A. K., Trivelli, X., Guerardel, Y., Kremer, L., Hatfull, G. F. Enzymatic hydrolysis of trehalose dimycolate releases free mycolic acids during mycobacterial growth in biofilms. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 285 (23), 17380-17389 (2010).
  35. Layre, E., et al. Mycolic acids constitute a scaffold for mycobacterial lipid antigens stimulating CD1-restricted T cells. Chemistry and Biology. 16 (1), 82-92 (2009).
  36. Llorens-Fons, M., et al. Trehalose polyphleates, external cell wall lipids in Mycobacterium abscessus, are associated with the formation of clumps with cording morphology, which have been associated with virulence. Frontiers in Microbiology. 8, (2017).
  37. Butler, W. R., Guthertz, L. S. Mycolic acid analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography for identification of mycobacterium species. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 14 (4), 704-726 (2001).
  38. Teramoto, K., et al. Characterization of mycolic acids in total fatty acid methyl ester fractions from Mycobacterium species by high resolution MALDI-TOFMS. Mass Spectrometry. 4 (1), 0035 (2015).
  39. Sartain, M. J., Dick, D. L., Rithner, C. D., Crick, D. C., Belisle, J. T. Lipidomic analyses of Mycobacterium tuberculosis based on accurate mass measurements and the novel "Mtb LipidDB". Journal of Lipid Research. 52 (5), 861-872 (2011).
  40. Li, M., Zhou, Z., Nie, H., Bai, Y., Liu, H. Recent advances of chromatography and mass spectrometry in lipidomics. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 399 (1), 243-249 (2011).
  41. Nahar, A., Baker, A. L., Nichols, D. S., Bowman, J. P., Britz, M. L. Application of Thin-Layer Chromatography-Flame Ionization Detection (TLC-FID) to total lipid quantitation in mycolic-acid synthesizing Rhodococcus and Williamsia species. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21 (5), 1670 (2020).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved