Synthetic biology provides insight into natural gene-network dynamics and enables assembly of engineered transcription circuitries for production of difficult-to-access therapeutic molecules. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis EthR binds to a specific operator (O(ethR)) thereby repressing ethA and preventing EthA-catalyzed conversion of the prodrug ethionamide, which increases the resistance of the pathogen to this last-line-of-defense treatment. We have designed a synthetic mammalian gene circuit that senses the EthR-O(ethR) interaction in human cells and produces a quantitative reporter gene expression readout. Challenging of the synthetic network with compounds of a rationally designed chemical library revealed 2-phenylethyl-butyrate as a nontoxic substance that abolished EthR's repressor function inside human cells, in mice, and within M. tuberculosis where it triggered derepression of ethA and increased the sensitivity of this pathogen to ethionamide. The discovery of antituberculosis compounds by using synthetic mammalian gene circuits may establish a new line of defense against multidrug-resistant M. tuberculosis.