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Iron metabolism in pathogenic bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lynn Dover


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The ability of pathogens to obtain iron from transferrins, ferritin, hemoglobin, and other iron-containing proteins of their host is central to whether they live or die. To combat invading bacteria, animals go into an iron-withholding mode and also use a protein (Nramp1) to generate reactive oxygen species in an attempt to kill the pathogens. Some invading bacteria respond by producing specific iron chelators-siderophores-that remove the iron from the host sources. Other bacteria rely on direct contact with host iron proteins, either abstracting the iron at their surface or, as with heme, takings it up into the cytoplasm. The expression of a large number of genes (>40 in some cases) is directly controlled by the prevailing intracellular concentration of Fe(II) via its complexing to a regulatory protein (the Fur protein or equivalent). Tn this way, the biochemistry of the bacterial cell can accommodate the challenges from the host. Agents that interfere with bacterial iron metabolism may prove extremely valuable for chemotherapy of diseases.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ratledge C, Dover LG

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annual Review of Microbiology

Year: 2000

Volume: 54

Issue: 1

Pages: 881-941

Print publication date: 01/01/2000

ISSN (print): 0066-4227

ISSN (electronic): 1545-3251


DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.54.1.881