Tobin, D.M., and Ramakrishnan, L. (2008) Comparative pathogenesis of Mycobacterium marinum and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Cellular Microbiology. 10(5):1027-1039.
A thorough understanding of Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis in humans has been elusive in part because of imperfect surrogate laboratory hosts, each with its own idiosyncrasies. Mycobacterium marinum is the closest genetic relative of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and is a natural pathogen of ectotherms. In this review, we present evidence that the similar genetic programs of M. marinum and M. tuberculosis and the corresponding host immune responses reveal a conserved skeleton of Mycobacterium host-pathogen interactions. While both species have made niche-specific refinements, an essential framework has persisted. We highlight genetic comparisons of the two organisms and studies of M. marinum in the developing zebrafish. By pairing M. marinum with the simplified immune system of zebrafish embryos, many of the defining mechanisms of mycobacterial pathogenesis can be distilled and investigated in a tractable host/pathogen pair.