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1.  Ferritin Mutants of Escherichia coli Are Iron Deficient and Growth Impaired, and fur Mutants are Iron Deficient 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(5):1415-1428.
Escherichia coli contains at least two iron storage proteins, a ferritin (FtnA) and a bacterioferritin (Bfr). To investigate their specific functions, the corresponding genes (ftnA and bfr) were inactivated by replacing the chromosomal ftnA and bfr genes with disrupted derivatives containing antibiotic resistance cassettes in place of internal segments of the corresponding coding regions. Single mutants (ftnA::spc and bfr::kan) and a double mutant (ftnA::spc bfr::kan) were generated and confirmed by Western and Southern blot analyses. The iron contents of the parental strain (W3110) and the bfr mutant increased by 1.5- to 2-fold during the transition from logarithmic to stationary phase in iron-rich media, whereas the iron contents of the ftnA and ftnA bfr mutants remained unchanged. The ftnA and ftnA bfr mutants were growth impaired in iron-deficient media, but this was apparent only after the mutant and parental strains had been precultured in iron-rich media. Surprisingly, ferric iron uptake regulation (fur) mutants also had very low iron contents (2.5-fold less iron than Fur+ strains) despite constitutive expression of the iron acquisition systems. The iron deficiencies of the ftnA and fur mutants were confirmed by Mössbauer spectroscopy, which further showed that the low iron contents of ftnA mutants are due to a lack of magnetically ordered ferric iron clusters likely to correspond to FtnA iron cores. In combination with the fur mutation, ftnA and bfr mutations produced an enhanced sensitivity to hydroperoxides, presumably due to an increase in production of “reactive ferrous iron.” It is concluded that FtnA acts as an iron store accommodating up to 50% of the cellular iron during postexponential growth in iron-rich media and providing a source of iron that partially compensates for iron deficiency during iron-restricted growth. In addition to repressing the iron acquisition systems, Fur appears to regulate the demand for iron, probably by controlling the expression of iron-containing proteins. The role of Bfr remains unclear.
PMCID: PMC93529  PMID: 10049371
2.  In vivo Evidence for the Iron Binding Activity of an Iron-Sulfur Cluster Assembly Protein IscA in Escherichia coli 
The Biochemical journal  2010;432(3):429-436.
IscA is a key member of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly machinery in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms; however, the physiological function of IscA still remains elusive. Here we report the in vivo evidence demonstrating the iron binding activity of IscA in Escherichia coli cells. Supplement of exogenous iron (1μM) in the M9 minimal medium is sufficient to maximize the iron binding in IscA expressed in E. coli cells under aerobic growth conditions. In contrast, IscU, an iron-sulfur cluster assembly scaffold protein, or CyaY, a bacterial frataxin homologue, fails to bind any iron in E. coli cells under the same experimental conditions. Interestingly, the strong iron binding activity of IscA is greatly diminished in E. coli cells under anaerobic growth conditions. Additional studies reveal that oxygen in medium promotes the iron binding in IscA and that the iron binding in IscA in turn prevents formation of biologically inaccessible ferric hydroxide under aerobic conditions. Consistent with the differential iron binding activity of IscA under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, we find that IscA and its paralog SufA are essential for the iron-sulfur cluster assembly in E. coli cells under aerobic growth conditions but not under anaerobic growth conditions. The results provide the in vivo evidence that IscA may act as an iron chaperone for the biogenesis of iron-sulfur clusters in E. coli cells under aerobic conditions.
PMCID: PMC2992610  PMID: 20942799
Iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis; human IscA homologue; intracellular iron content
3.  Iron Binding Activity of Human Iron-Sulfur Cluster Assembly Protein hIscA-1 
The Biochemical journal  2010;428(1):125-131.
A human homologue of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly protein IscA (hIscA1) has been cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli cells. The UV-visible absorption and EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) measurements reveal that hIscA1 purified from E. coli cells contains a mononuclear iron center and that the iron binding in hIscA1 expressed in E. coli cells can be further modulated by the iron content in the cell growth medium. Additional studies show that purified hIscA1 binds iron with an iron association constant of approx. 2.0 × 1019 M−1, and that the iron-bound hIscA1 is able to provide the iron for the iron-sulfur cluster assembly in a proposed scaffold protein IscU of E. coli in vitro. The complementation experiments indicate that hIscA1 can partially substitute for IscA in restoring the cell growth of E. coli in the M9 minimal medium under aerobic conditions. The results suggest that human IscA1, like E. coli IscA, is an iron binding protein that may act as an iron chaperone for biogenesis of iron-sulfur clusters.
PMCID: PMC2878720  PMID: 20302570
Iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis; human IscA homologue; intracellular iron content
4.  Iron-sulfur Proteins Are the Major Source of Protein-bound Dinitrosyl Iron Complexes Formed in Escherichia coli Cells under Nitric Oxide Stress 
Free radical biology & medicine  2011;50(11):1582-1590.
Protein-bound dinitrosyl iron complexes (DNICs) have been observed in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells under nitric oxide (NO) stress. The identity of proteins that bind DNICs, however, still remains elusive. Here we demonstrate that iron-sulfur proteins are the major source of protein-bound DNICs formed in Escherichia coli cells under NO stress. Expression of recombinant iron-sulfur proteins, but not the proteins without iron-sulfur clusters, almost doubles the amount of protein-bound DNICs formed in E. coli cells after NO exposure. Purification of recombinant proteins from the NO-exposed E. coli cells further confirms that iron-sulfur proteins, but not the proteins without iron-sulfur clusters, are modified forming protein-bound DINCs. Deletion of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins IscA and SufA to block the [4Fe-4S] cluster biogenesis in E. coli cells largely eliminates the NO-mediated formation of protein-bound DNICs, suggesting that iron-sulfur clusters are mainly responsible for the NO-mediated formation of protein-bound DNICs in cells. Furthermore, depletion of “chelatable iron pool” in the wild-type E. coli cells effectively removes iron-sulfur clusters from proteins and concomitantly diminishes the NO-mediated formation of protein-bound DNICs, indicating that iron-sulfur clusters in proteins constitute at least part of “chelatable iron pool” in cells.
PMCID: PMC3090472  PMID: 21420489
nitric oxide; iron-sulfur clusters; chelatable iron pool; dinitrosyl iron complex
5.  IscA/SufA Paralogs Are Required for the [4Fe-4S] Cluster Assembly in Enzymes of Multiple Physiological Pathways in Escherichia coli under Aerobic Growth Conditions 
The Biochemical journal  2009;420(3):463-472.
IscA/SufA paralogs are the members of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly machinery in Escherichia coli. While deletion of either IscA or SufA has only a mild effect on cell growth, deletion of both IscA and SufA results in a null-growth phenotype in minimal medium under aerobic growth conditions. Here we report that cell growth of the iscA/sufA double mutant (E. coli strain in which both iscA and sufA had been in-frame-deleted) can be partially restored by supplementing with BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and thiamin. We further demonstrate that deletion of IscA/SufA paralogs blocks the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly in IlvD (dihydroxyacid dehydratase) of the BCAA biosynthesis pathway in E. coli cells under aerobic conditions and that addition of the iron-bound IscA/SufA efficiently promotes the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly in IlvD and restores the enzyme activity in vitro, suggesting that IscA/SufA may act as an iron donor for the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly under aerobic conditions. Additional studies reveal that IscA/SufA are also required for the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly in protein ThiC of the thiamin biosynthesis pathway, aconitase B of the citrate acid cycle, and endonuclease III of the DNA base excision repair pathway in E. coli under aerobic conditions. Nevertheless, deletion of IscA/SufA does not significantly affect the [2Fe-2S] cluster assembly in the redox transcription factor SoxR, ferredoxin, and the siderophore-iron reductase FhuF. The results suggest that the biogenesis of the [4Fe-4S] clusters and the [2Fe-2S] clusters may have distinct pathways and that IscA/SufA paralogs are essential for the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly, but are dispensable for the [2Fe-2S] cluster assembly in E. coli under aerobic conditions.
PMCID: PMC2776711  PMID: 19309314
aconitase; branched-chain amino acids; dihydroxyacid dehydratase; iron-sulfur clusters; IscA/SufA paralogs; thiamin
6.  Escherichia coli RIC Is Able to Donate Iron to Iron-Sulfur Clusters 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95222.
Escherichia coli RIC (Repair of Iron Centers) is a diiron protein previously reported to be involved in the repair of iron-sulfur proteins damaged by oxidative or nitrosative stresses, and proposed to act as an iron donor. This possible role of RIC was now examined specifically by evaluating its ability to donate iron ions to apo-iron-sulfur proteins, determining the iron binding constants and assessing the lability of its iron ions. We show, by UV-visible, EPR and resonance Raman spectroscopies that RIC may participate in the synthesis of an iron-sulfur cluster in the apo-forms of the spinach ferredoxin and IscU when in the presence of the sulfide donating system IscS and L-cysteine. Iron binding assays allowed determining the as-isolated and fully reduced RIC dissociation constants for the ferric and ferrous iron of 10−27 M and 10−13 M, respectively. Mössbauer studies revealed that the RIC iron ions are labile, namely when the center is in the mixed-valence redox form as compared with the (μ-oxo) diferric one. Altogether, these results suggest that RIC is capable of delivering iron for the formation of iron-sulfur clusters.
PMCID: PMC3989283  PMID: 24740378
7.  Structural Basis for Fe–S Cluster Assembly and tRNA Thiolation Mediated by IscS Protein–Protein Interactions 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(4):e1000354.
Crystal structures reveal how distinct sites on the cysteine desulfurase IscS bind two different sulfur-acceptor proteins, IscU and TusA, to transfer sulfur atoms for iron-sulfur cluster biosynthesis and tRNA thiolation.
The cysteine desulfurase IscS is a highly conserved master enzyme initiating sulfur transfer via persulfide to a range of acceptor proteins involved in Fe-S cluster assembly, tRNA modifications, and sulfur-containing cofactor biosynthesis. Several IscS-interacting partners including IscU, a scaffold for Fe-S cluster assembly; TusA, the first member of a sulfur relay leading to sulfur incorporation into the wobble uridine of several tRNAs; ThiI, involved in tRNA modification and thiamine biosynthesis; and rhodanese RhdA are sulfur acceptors. Other proteins, such as CyaY/frataxin and IscX, also bind to IscS, but their functional roles are not directly related to sulfur transfer. We have determined the crystal structures of IscS-IscU and IscS-TusA complexes providing the first insight into their different modes of binding and the mechanism of sulfur transfer. Exhaustive mutational analysis of the IscS surface allowed us to map the binding sites of various partner proteins and to determine the functional and biochemical role of selected IscS and TusA residues. IscS interacts with its partners through an extensive surface area centered on the active site Cys328. The structures indicate that the acceptor proteins approach Cys328 from different directions and suggest that the conformational plasticity of a long loop containing this cysteine is essential for the ability of IscS to transfer sulfur to multiple acceptor proteins. The sulfur acceptors can only bind to IscS one at a time, while frataxin and IscX can form a ternary complex with IscU and IscS. Our data support the role of frataxin as an iron donor for IscU to form the Fe-S clusters.
Author Summary
Sulfur is incorporated into the backbone of almost all proteins in the form of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. In some proteins, sulfur is also present as iron–sulfur clusters, sulfur-containing vitamins, and cofactors. What's more, sulfur is important in the structure of tRNAs, which are crucial for translation of the genetic code from messenger RNA for protein synthesis. The biosynthetic pathways for assembly of these sulfur-containing molecules are generally well known, but the molecular details of how sulfur is delivered from protein to protein are less well understood. In bacteria, one of three pathways for sulfur delivery is the isc (iron-sulfur clusters) system. First, an enzyme called IscS extracts sulfur atoms from cysteine. This versatile enzyme can then interact with several proteins to deliver sulfur to various pathways that make iron–sulfur clusters or transfer sulfur to cofactors and tRNAs. This study describes in atomic detail precisely how IscS binds in a specific and yet distinct way to two different proteins: IscU (a scaffold protein for iron–sulfur cluster formation) and TusA (which delivers sulfur for tRNA modification). Furthermore, by introducing mutations into IscS, we have identified the region on the surface of this protein that is involved in binding its target proteins. These findings provide a molecular view of the protein–protein interactions involved in sulfur transfer and advance our understanding of how sulfur is delivered from one protein to another during biosynthesis of iron–sulfur clusters.
PMCID: PMC2854127  PMID: 20404999
8.  Hydrogen peroxide inactivates the Escherichia coli Isc iron-sulfur assembly system, and OxyR induces the Suf system to compensate 
Molecular microbiology  2010;78(6):1448-1467.
Environmental H2O2 creates several injuries in Escherichia coli, including the oxidative conversion of dehydratase [4Fe-4S] clusters to an inactive [3Fe-4S] form. To protect itself, H2O2-stressed E. coli activates the OxyR regulon. This regulon includes the suf operon, which encodes an alternative to the housekeeping Isc iron-sulfur-cluster assembly system. Previously studied [3Fe-4S] clusters are repaired by an Isc/Suf-independent pathway, so the rationale for Suf induction was not obvious. Using strains that cannot scavenge H2O2, we imposed chronic low-grade stress and found that suf mutants could not maintain the activity of isopropylmalate isomerase, a key iron-sulfur dehydratase. Experiments showed that its damaged cluster was degraded in vivo beyond the [3Fe-4S] state, presumably to an apoprotein form, and thus required a de novo assembly system for reactivation. Surprisingly, sub-micromolar H2O2 poisoned the Isc machinery, thereby creating a requirement for Suf both to repair the isomerase and to activate nascent Fe-S enzymes in general. The IscS and IscA components of the Isc system are H2O2-resistant, suggesting that oxidants disrupt Isc by oxidizing clusters as they are assembled on or transferred from the IscU scaffold. Consistent with these results, organisms that are routinely exposed to oxidants rely upon Suf rather than Isc for cluster assembly.
PMCID: PMC3051806  PMID: 21143317
Iron-sulfur clusters; the Suf system; the Isc system; and oxidative stress
9.  Distinct Roles of the Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium CyaY and YggX Proteins in the Biosynthesis and Repair of Iron-Sulfur Clusters 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(4):1390-1401.
Labile [4Fe-4S]2+ clusters found at the active sites of many dehydratases are susceptible to damage by univalent oxidants that convert the clusters to an inactive [3Fe-4S]1+ form. Bacteria repair damaged clusters in a process that does not require de novo protein synthesis or the Isc and Suf cluster assembly pathways. The current study investigates the participation of the bacterial frataxin ortholog CyaY and the YggX protein, which are proposed to play roles in iron trafficking and iron-sulfur cluster repair. Previous reports found that individual mutations in cyaY or yggX were not associated with phenotypic changes in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, suggesting that CyaY and YggX might have functionally redundant roles. However, we have found that individual mutations in cyaY or yggX confer enhanced susceptibility to hydrogen peroxide in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. In addition, inactivation of the stm3944 open reading frame, which is located immediately upstream of cyaY and which encodes a putative inner membrane protein, dramatically enhances the hydrogen peroxide sensitivity of a cyaY mutant. Overexpression of STM3944 reduces the elevated intracellular free iron levels observed in an S. Typhimurium fur mutant and also reduces the total cellular iron content under conditions of iron overload, suggesting that the stm3944-encoded protein may mediate iron efflux. Mutations in cyaY and yggX have different effects on the activities of the iron-sulfur cluster-containing aconitase, serine deaminase, and NADH dehydrogenase I enzymes of S. Typhimurium under basal conditions or following recovery from oxidative stress. In addition, cyaY and yggX mutations have additive effects on 6-phosphogluconate dehydratase-dependent growth during nitrosative stress, and a cyaY mutation reduces Salmonella virulence in mice. Collectively, these results indicate that CyaY and YggX play distinct supporting roles in iron-sulfur cluster biosynthesis and the repair of labile clusters damaged by univalent oxidants. Salmonella experiences oxidative and nitrosative stress within host phagocytes, and CyaY-dependent maintenance of labile iron-sulfur clusters appears to be important for Salmonella virulence.
PMCID: PMC3993414  PMID: 24421039
10.  Intracellular Iron Transport and Storage: From Molecular Mechanisms to Health Implications 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2008;10(6):997-1030.
Maintenance of proper “labile iron” levels is a critical component in preserving homeostasis. Iron is a vital element that is a constituent of a number of important macromolecules, including those involved in energy production, respiration, DNA synthesis, and metabolism; however, excess “labile iron” is potentially detrimental to the cell or organism or both because of its propensity to participate in oxidation–reduction reactions that generate harmful free radicals. Because of this dual nature, elaborate systems tightly control the concentration of available iron. Perturbation of normal physiologic iron concentrations may be both a cause and a consequence of cellular damage and disease states. This review highlights the molecular mechanisms responsible for regulation of iron absorption, transport, and storage through the roles of key regulatory proteins, including ferroportin, hepcidin, ferritin, and frataxin. In addition, we present an overview of the relation between iron regulation and oxidative stress and we discuss the role of functional iron overload in the pathogenesis of hemochromatosis, neurodegeneration, and inflammation. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 10, 997–1030.
Iron Transport
Nonintestinal iron transport by transferring
Iron-bound transferrin binds the transferrin receptor for cellular iron uptake
Regulation of transferrin receptor 1 by iron regulatory element–iron regulatory protein system
Transcriptional regulation of transferrin receptor 1
Differential regulation of transferrin receptor 1 and transferrin receptor 2
Transferrin receptor 1 is regulated by hereditary hemochromatosis protein
Transferrin-independent cellular iron uptake
Intestinal iron absorption
Regulation of divalent metal transporter 1
Ferroportin is responsible for cellular iron efflux
Ferroportin associates and cooperates with ceruloplasmin
Ferroportin and hephaestin cooperate in iron efflux from intestinal cells
Iron Storage and Ferritin
Structure, tissue distribution, and importance of cytoplasmic ferritin
Iron efflux and ferritin degradation
Serum ferritin and ferritin receptor
Mitochondrial ferritin
Nuclear ferritin
Regulation of Ferritin
Iron-mediated ferritin regulation
Ferritin regulation by reactive oxygen species
Ferritin transcriptional regulation by cytokines
Ferritin regulation in erythroleukemic cells
Frataxin and Iron Homeostasis
Frataxin and Friedreich ataxia
Frataxin and mitochondrial iron traffic
Frataxin, heme synthesis, and iron–sulfur cluster biogenesis
Frataxin gene regulation
Functional Iron Overload and Human Health
Hereditary hemochromatosis
Mutant iron-responsive element-mediated iron overload
Iron regulation and neurodegeneration
Conclusions and Future Directions
PMCID: PMC2932529  PMID: 18327971
11.  Global Identification of Genes Affecting Iron-Sulfur Cluster Biogenesis and Iron Homeostasis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(6):1238-1249.
Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are ubiquitous cofactors that are crucial for many physiological processes in all organisms. In Escherichia coli, assembly of Fe-S clusters depends on the activity of the iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) assembly and sulfur mobilization (SUF) apparatus. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms and the mechanisms that control Fe-S cluster biogenesis and iron homeostasis are still poorly defined. In this study, we performed a global screen to identify the factors affecting Fe-S cluster biogenesis and iron homeostasis using the Keio collection, which is a library of 3,815 single-gene E. coli knockout mutants. The approach was based on radiolabeling of the cells with [2-14C]dihydrouracil, which entirely depends on the activity of an Fe-S enzyme, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase. We identified 49 genes affecting Fe-S cluster biogenesis and/or iron homeostasis, including 23 genes important only under microaerobic/anaerobic conditions. This study defines key proteins associated with Fe-S cluster biogenesis and iron homeostasis, which will aid further understanding of the cellular mechanisms that coordinate the processes. In addition, we applied the [2-14C]dihydrouracil-labeling method to analyze the role of amino acid residues of an Fe-S cluster assembly scaffold (IscU) as a model of the Fe-S cluster assembly apparatus. The analysis showed that Cys37, Cys63, His105, and Cys106 are essential for the function of IscU in vivo, demonstrating the potential of the method to investigate in vivo function of proteins involved in Fe-S cluster assembly.
PMCID: PMC3957717  PMID: 24415728
12.  Iron-Sulfur (Fe/S) Protein Biogenesis: Phylogenomic and Genetic Studies of A-Type Carriers 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(5):e1000497.
Iron sulfur (Fe/S) proteins are ubiquitous and participate in multiple biological processes, from photosynthesis to DNA repair. Iron and sulfur are highly reactive chemical species, and the mechanisms allowing the multiprotein systems ISC and SUF to assist Fe/S cluster formation in vivo have attracted considerable attention. Here, A-Type components of these systems (ATCs for A-Type Carriers) are studied by phylogenomic and genetic analyses. ATCs that have emerged in the last common ancestor of bacteria were conserved in most bacteria and were acquired by eukaryotes and few archaea via horizontal gene transfers. Many bacteria contain multiple ATCs, as a result of gene duplication and/or horizontal gene transfer events. Based on evolutionary considerations, we could define three subfamilies: ATC-I, -II and -III. Escherichia coli, which has one ATC-I (ErpA) and two ATC-IIs (IscA and SufA), was used as a model to investigate functional redundancy between ATCs in vivo. Genetic analyses revealed that, under aerobiosis, E. coli IscA and SufA are functionally redundant carriers, as both are potentially able to receive an Fe/S cluster from IscU or the SufBCD complex and transfer it to ErpA. In contrast, under anaerobiosis, redundancy occurs between ErpA and IscA, which are both potentially able to receive Fe/S clusters from IscU and transfer them to an apotarget. Our combined phylogenomic and genetic study indicates that ATCs play a crucial role in conveying ready-made Fe/S clusters from components of the biogenesis systems to apotargets. We propose a model wherein the conserved biochemical function of ATCs provides multiple paths for supplying Fe/S clusters to apotargets. This model predicts the occurrence of a dynamic network, the structure and composition of which vary with the growth conditions. As an illustration, we depict three ways for a given protein to be matured, which appears to be dependent on the demand for Fe/S biogenesis.
Author Summary
Iron sulfur (Fe/S) proteins are found in all living organisms where they participate in a wide array of biological processes. Accordingly, genetic defects in Fe/S biogenesis yield pleiotropic phenotypes in bacteria and several syndromes in humans. Multiprotein systems that assist Fe/S cluster formation and insertion into apoproteins have been identified. Most systems include so-called A-type proteins (which we refer to as ATC proteins hereafter), which have an undefined role in Fe/S biogenesis. Phylogenomic analyses presented, here, reveal that the ATC gene is ancient, that it was already present in the last common ancestor of bacteria, and that it subsequently spread to eukaryotes via mitochondria or chloroplastic endosymbioses and to a few archaea via horizontal gene transfers. Proteobacteria are unusual in having multiple ATCs. We show by a genetic approach that the three ATC proteins of E. coli are potentially interchangeable, but that redundancy is limited in vivo, either because of gene expression control or because of inefficient Fe/S transfers between ATCs and other components within the Fe/S biogenesis pathway. The combined phylogenomic and genetic approaches allow us to propose that multiple ATCs enable E. coli to diversify the ways for conveying ready-made Fe/S clusters from components of the biogenesis systems to apotargets, and that environmental conditions influence which pathway is used.
PMCID: PMC2682760  PMID: 19478995
13.  Differential Role of Ferritins in Iron Metabolism and Virulence of the Plant-Pathogenic Bacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi 3937▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(5):1518-1530.
During infection, the phytopathogenic enterobacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi has to cope with iron-limiting conditions and the production of reactive oxygen species by plant cells. Previous studies have shown that a tight control of the bacterial intracellular iron content is necessary for full virulence. The E. chrysanthemi genome possesses two loci that could be devoted to iron storage: the bfr gene, encoding a heme-containing bacterioferritin, and the ftnA gene, coding for a paradigmatic ferritin. To assess the role of these proteins in the physiology of this pathogen, we constructed ferritin-deficient mutants by reverse genetics. Unlike the bfr mutant, the ftnA mutant had increased sensitivity to iron deficiency and to redox stress conditions. Interestingly, the bfr ftnA mutant displayed an intermediate phenotype for sensitivity to these stresses. Whole-cell analysis by Mössbauer spectroscopy showed that the main iron storage protein is FtnA and that there is an increase in the ferrous iron/ferric iron ratio in the ftnA and bfr ftnA mutants. We found that ftnA gene expression is positively controlled by iron and the transcriptional repressor Fur via the small antisense RNA RyhB. bfr gene expression is induced at the stationary phase of growth. The σS transcriptional factor is necessary for this control. Pathogenicity tests showed that FtnA and the Bfr contribute differentially to the virulence of E. chrysanthemi depending on the host, indicating the importance of a perfect control of iron homeostasis in this bacterial species during infection.
PMCID: PMC2258672  PMID: 18165304
14.  Aconitase Causes Iron Toxicity in Drosophila pink1 Mutants 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003478.
The PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) is a mitochondrial kinase, and pink1 mutations cause early onset Parkinson's disease (PD) in humans. Loss of pink1 in Drosophila leads to defects in mitochondrial function, and genetic data suggest that another PD-related gene product, Parkin, acts with pink1 to regulate the clearance of dysfunctional mitochondria (mitophagy). Consequently, pink1 mutants show an accumulation of morphologically abnormal mitochondria, but it is unclear if other factors are involved in pink1 function in vivo and contribute to the mitochondrial morphological defects seen in specific cell types in pink1 mutants. To explore the molecular mechanisms of pink1 function, we performed a genetic modifier screen in Drosophila and identified aconitase (acon) as a dominant suppressor of pink1. Acon localizes to mitochondria and harbors a labile iron-sulfur [4Fe-4S] cluster that can scavenge superoxide to release hydrogen peroxide and iron that combine to produce hydroxyl radicals. Using Acon enzymatic mutants, and expression of mitoferritin that scavenges free iron, we show that [4Fe-4S] cluster inactivation, as a result of increased superoxide in pink1 mutants, results in oxidative stress and mitochondrial swelling. We show that [4Fe-4S] inactivation acts downstream of pink1 in a pathway that affects mitochondrial morphology, but acts independently of parkin. Thus our data indicate that superoxide-dependent [4Fe-4S] inactivation defines a potential pathogenic cascade that acts independent of mitophagy and links iron toxicity to mitochondrial failure in a PD–relevant model.
Author Summary
In this work we provide mechanistic insight linking together two of the earliest observations in Parkinson's disease: the excessive build-up of iron in diseased substantia nigra neurons and mitochondrial dysfunction particularly increased reactive oxygen species production at the level of Complex I. We identify aconitase mutants as strong genetic suppressors of Parkinson-related pink1 mutant phenotypes, both at the organismal and at the cellular/mitochondrial level. We show that the mitochondrial dysfunction in pink1 mutants that includes Complex I dysfunction results in superoxide-dependent inactivation of the Aconitase iron-sulfur cluster, leading to the release of iron and peroxide that combine to produce hydroxyl radicals and mitochondrial failure. Consequently, scavenging free iron using expression of mitoferritin or decreasing the levels of aconitase both rescue pink1 mutants; while increased wild-type Aconitase, but not a mutant that does not harbor an iron-sulfur cluster, results in severe mitochondrial defects. Given that reduced electron transport chain activity, increased oxidative stress, and natural iron build-up in the substantia nigra are common factors in sporadic and familial forms of Parkinson's disease, we believe that oxidative inactivation of Aconitase may represent an important pathogenic cascade underlying neuronal dysfunction in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3636082  PMID: 23637640
15.  Malfunctioning of the Iron–Sulfur Cluster Assembly Machinery in Saccharomyces cerevisiae Produces Oxidative Stress via an Iron-Dependent Mechanism, Causing Dysfunction in Respiratory Complexes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111585.
Biogenesis and recycling of iron–sulfur (Fe–S) clusters play important roles in the iron homeostasis mechanisms involved in mitochondrial function. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the Fe–S clusters are assembled into apoproteins by the iron–sulfur cluster machinery (ISC). The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of ISC gene deletion and consequent iron release under oxidative stress conditions on mitochondrial functionality in S. cerevisiae. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, caused by H2O2, menadione, or ethanol, was associated with a loss of iron homeostasis and exacerbated by ISC system dysfunction. ISC mutants showed increased free Fe2+ content, exacerbated by ROS-inducers, causing an increase in ROS, which was decreased by the addition of an iron chelator. Our study suggests that the increment in free Fe2+ associated with ROS generation may have originated from mitochondria, probably Fe–S cluster proteins, under both normal and oxidative stress conditions, suggesting that Fe–S cluster anabolism is affected. Raman spectroscopy analysis and immunoblotting indicated that in mitochondria from SSQ1 and ISA1 mutants, the content of [Fe–S] centers was decreased, as was formation of Rieske protein-dependent supercomplex III2IV2, but this was not observed in the iron-deficient ATX1 and MRS4 mutants. In addition, the activity of complexes II and IV from the electron transport chain (ETC) was impaired or totally abolished in SSQ1 and ISA1 mutants. These results confirm that the ISC system plays important roles in iron homeostasis, ROS stress, and in assembly of supercomplexes III2IV2 and III2IV1, thus affecting the functionality of the respiratory chain.
PMCID: PMC4214746  PMID: 25356756
16.  Lethal oxidative damage and mutagenesis are generated by iron in delta fur mutants of Escherichia coli: protective role of superoxide dismutase. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(9):2305-2314.
The Escherichia coli Fur protein, with its iron(II) cofactor, represses iron assimilation and manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) genes, thus coupling iron metabolism to protection against oxygen toxicity. Iron assimilation is triggered by iron starvation in wild-type cells and is constitutive in fur mutants. We show that iron metabolism deregulation in fur mutants produces an iron overload, leading to oxidative stress and DNA damage including lethal and mutagenic lesions. fur recA mutants were not viable under aerobic conditions and died after a shift from anaerobiosis to aerobiosis. Reduction of the intracellular iron concentration by an iron chelator (ferrozine), by inhibition of ferric iron transport (tonB mutants), or by overexpression of the iron storage ferritin H-like (FTN) protein eliminated oxygen sensitivity. Hydroxyl radical scavengers dimethyl sulfoxide and thiourea also provided protection. Functional recombinational repair was necessary for protection, but SOS induction was not involved. Oxygen-dependent spontaneous mutagenesis was significantly increased in fur mutants. Similarly, SOD deficiency rendered sodA sodB recA mutants nonviable under aerobic conditions. Lethality was suppressed by tonB mutations but not by iron chelation or overexpression of FTN. Thus, superoxide-mediated iron reduction was responsible for oxygen sensitivity. Furthermore, overexpression of SOD partially protected fur recA mutants. We propose that a transient iron overload, which could potentially generate oxidative stress, occurs in wild-type cells on return to normal growth conditions following iron starvation, with the coupling between iron and MnSOD regulation helping the cells cope.
PMCID: PMC176885  PMID: 7730258
17.  The Staphylococcal Ferritins Are Differentially Regulated in Response to Iron and Manganese and via PerR and Fur  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(2):972-979.
Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis ferritin (FtnA and SefA, respectively) homologues are antigenic and highly conserved. A previous study showed that ftnA is a component of the S. aureus PerR regulon with its transcription induced by elevated iron and repressed by PerR, which functions as a manganese-dependent transcriptional repressor. We have further investigated the role of iron and Fur in the regulation of PerR regulon genes ftnA (ferritin), ahpC (alkyl-hydroperoxidase), and mrgA (Dps homologue) and shown that iron has a major role in the regulation of the PerR regulon and hence the oxidative stress response, since in the presence of both iron and manganese, transcription of PerR regulon genes is induced above the repressed levels observed with manganese alone. Furthermore the PerR regulon genes are differentially regulated by metal availability and Fur. First, there is an additional level of PerR-independent regulation of ftnA under low-iron conditions which is not observed with ahpC and mrgA. Second, there is a differential response of these genes to Fur as ftnA expression is constitutive in a fur mutant, while ahpC expression is constitutive under low-Fe/Mn conditions but some repression of ahpC still occurs in the presence of manganese, whereas mrgA expression is still repressed in the fur mutant as in wild-type S. aureus, although there is a decrease in the overall level of mrgA transcription. These studies have also shown that FtnA expression is regulated by growth phase, but maximal transcription of ftnA differs dependent on the growth medium. Moreover, there are significant regulatory differences between the S. aureus and S. epidermidis ferritins, as sefA expression in contrast to that of ftnA is derepressed under low-Fe/Mn ion conditions.
PMCID: PMC321569  PMID: 14742543
18.  A Complex Between Biotin Synthase and The Iron-Sulfur Cluster Assembly Chaperone HscA That Enhances In Vivo Cluster Assembly† 
Biochemistry  2009;48(45):10782-10792.
Biotin synthase (BioB) is an iron-sulfur enzyme that catalyzes the last step in biotin biosynthesis, the insertion of sulfur between the C6 and C9 carbons of dethiobiotin to complete the thiophane ring of biotin. Recent in vitro experiments suggest that the sulfur is derived from a [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster within BioB, and that the remnants of this cluster dissociate from the enzyme following each turnover. In order for BioB to catalyze multiple rounds of biotin synthesis, the [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster in BioB must be reassembled, a process that could be carried out in vivo by the ISC or SUF iron-sulfur cluster assembly systems. The bacterial ISC system includes HscA, an Hsp70-class molecular chaperone, whose yeast homolog has been shown to play an important but nonessential role in assembly of mitochondrial FeS clusters in S. cerevesiae. In the present work we show that in E. coli, HscA significantly improves the efficiency of the in vivo assembly of the [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster on BioB under conditions of low to moderate iron. In vitro, we show that HscA binds with increased affinity to BioB missing one or both FeS clusters, with a maximum of two HscA molecules per BioB dimer. BioB binds to HscA in an ATP/ADP-independent manner and a high affinity complex is also formed with a truncated form of HscA that lacks the nucleotide binding domain. Further, the BioB:HscA complex binds the FeS cluster scaffold protein IscU in a noncompetitive manner, generating a complex that contains all three proteins. We propose that HscA plays a role in facilitating the transfer of FeS clusters from IscU into the appropriate target apoproteins such as biotin synthase, perhaps by enhancing or prolonging the requisite protein:protein interaction.
PMCID: PMC2809015  PMID: 19821612
19.  Delivery of Iron-Sulfur Clusters to the Hydrogen-Oxidizing [NiFe]-Hydrogenases in Escherichia coli Requires the A-Type Carrier Proteins ErpA and IscA 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31755.
During anaerobic growth Escherichia coli synthesizes two membrane-associated hydrogen-oxidizing [NiFe]-hydrogenases, termed hydrogenase 1 and hydrogenase 2. Each enzyme comprises a catalytic subunit containing the [NiFe] cofactor, an electron-transferring small subunit with a particular complement of [Fe-S] (iron-sulfur) clusters and a membrane-anchor subunit. How the [Fe-S] clusters are delivered to the small subunit of these enzymes is unclear. A-type carrier (ATC) proteins of the Isc (iron-sulfur-cluster) and Suf (sulfur mobilization) [Fe-S] cluster biogenesis pathways are proposed to traffic pre-formed [Fe-S] clusters to apoprotein targets. Mutants that could not synthesize SufA had active hydrogenase 1 and hydrogenase 2 enzymes, thus demonstrating that the Suf machinery is not required for hydrogenase maturation. In contrast, mutants devoid of the IscA, ErpA or IscU proteins of the Isc machinery had no detectable hydrogenase 1 or 2 activities. Lack of activity of both enzymes correlated with the absence of the respective [Fe-S]-cluster-containing small subunit, which was apparently rapidly degraded. During biosynthesis the hydrogenase large subunits receive their [NiFe] cofactor from the Hyp maturation machinery. Subsequent to cofactor insertion a specific C-terminal processing step occurs before association of the large subunit with the small subunit. This processing step is independent of small subunit maturation. Using western blotting experiments it could be shown that although the amount of each hydrogenase large subunit was strongly reduced in the iscA and erpA mutants, some maturation of the large subunit still occurred. Moreover, in contrast to the situation in Isc-proficient strains, these processed large subunits were not membrane-associated. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that both IscA and ErpA are required for [Fe-S] cluster delivery to the small subunits of the hydrogen-oxidizing hydrogenases; however, delivery of the Fe atom to the active site might have different requirements.
PMCID: PMC3283652  PMID: 22363723
20.  Two distinct ferritin-like molecules in P. aeruginosa: The product of the bfrA gene is a bacterial ferritin (FtnA) not a bacterioferritin (Bfr)†€ 
Biochemistry  2011;50(23):5236-5248.
Two distinct types of ferritin-like molecules often coexist in bacteria, the heme binding bacterioferritins (Bfr) and the non-heme binding bacterial ferritins (Ftn). The early isolation of a ferritin-like molecule from P. aeruginosa suggested the possibility of a bacterioferritin assembled from two different subunits [Moore, G. R., Kadir, F. H., Al-Massad, F. K., Le Brun, N. E., Thomson, A. J., Greenwood, C., Keen, J. N. and Findlay, J. B. C. (1994) Biochem. J. 304, 493–497]. Subsequent studies demonstrated the presence of two genes coding for ferritin-like molecules in P. aeruginosa, designated bfrA and bfrB, and suggested that two distinct bacterioferritins may coexist [Ma, J.-F., Ochsner, U. A., Klotz, M. G, Nanayakkara, V. K., Howell, M. L., Johnson, Z., Posey, J. E., Vasil, M. L., Monaco, J. J., and Hassett, D. J. (1999) J. Bacteriol. 181, 3730–3742]. In this report we present structural evidence demonstrating that the product of the bfrA gene is a ferritin-like molecule not capable of binding heme which harbors a catalytically active ferroxidase center with structural properties similar to those characteristic of bacterial and archaeal Ftns and clearly distinct from the ferroxidase center typical of Bfrs. Consequently, the product of the bfrA gene in P. aeruginosa is a bacterial ferritin, which we propose should be termed Pa FtnA. These results, together with the previous characterization of the product of the bfrB gene as a genuine bacterioferritin (Pa BfrB) [Weeratunga, S. J., Lovell, S., Yao, H., Battaile, K. P., Fischer, C. J., Gee, C. E., and Rivera, M. (2010) Biochemistry 49. 1160–1175] indicate the coexistence of a bacterial ferritin (Pa FtnA) and a bacterioferritin (Pa BfrB) in P. aeruginosa. In agreement with this idea, we also obtained evidence demonstrating that release of iron from Pa BfrB and Pa FtnA is likely subject to different regulation in P. aerugionsa: Whereas the efficient release of iron stored in Pa FtnA requires only the input of electrons from a ferredoxin NADP reductase (Pa Fpr), the release of iron stored in Pa BfrB requires not only electron delivery by Pa Fpr, but the presence of a “regulator”, the apo form of a bacterioferritin-associated ferredoxin (Pa apo Bfd). Finally, structural analysis of iron uptake in crystallo suggests a possible pathway for the internalization of ferroxidase iron into the interior cavity of Pa FtnA.
PMCID: PMC3130351  PMID: 21574546
21.  MicroRNA-210 Controls Mitochondrial Metabolism during Hypoxia by Repressing the Iron-Sulfur Cluster Assembly Proteins ISCU1/2 
Cell metabolism  2009;10(4):273-284.
Repression of mitochondrial respiration represents an evolutionarily ancient cellular adaptation to hypoxia and profoundly influences cell survival and function; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are incompletely understood. Primarily utilizing pulmonary arterial endothelial cells as a representative hypoxic cell type, we identify the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins (ISCU1/2) as direct targets for repression by the hypoxia-induced microRNA-210 (miR-210). ISCU1/2 facilitate the assembly of iron-sulfur clusters, prosthetic groups that are critical for electron transport and mitochondrial oxidation-reduction reactions. Under in vivo conditions of up-regulating miR-210 and repressing ISCU1/2, the integrity of iron-sulfur clusters is disrupted. In turn, by repressing ISCU1/2 during hypoxia, miR-210 decreases the activity of prototypical iron-sulfur proteins controlling mitochondrial metabolism, including Complex I and aconitase. Consequently, miR-210 represses mitochondrial respiration and associated downstream functions. These results identify important mechanistic connections among microRNA, iron-sulfur cluster biology, hypoxia, and mitochondrial function, with broad implications for cellular metabolism and adaptation to cellular stress.
PMCID: PMC2759401  PMID: 19808020
22.  [2Fe-2S]-Ferredoxin Binds Directly to Cysteine Desulfurase and Supplies an Electron for Iron–Sulfur Cluster Assembly but Is Displaced by the Scaffold Protein or Bacterial Frataxin 
Escherichia coli [2Fe-2S]-ferredoxin (Fdx) is encoded by the isc operon along with other proteins involved in the ‘house-keeping’ mechanism of iron–sulfur cluster biogenesis. Although it has been proposed that Fdx supplies electrons to reduce sulfane sulfur (S0) produced by the cysteine desulfurase (IscS) to sulfide (S2–) as required for the assembly of Fe–S clusters on the scaffold protein (IscU), direct experimental evidence for the role of Fdx has been lacking. Here, we show that Fdx (in either oxidation state) interacts directly with IscS. The interaction face on Fdx was found to include residues close to its Fe–S cluster. In addition, C328 of IscS, the residue known to pick up sulfur from the active site of IscS and deliver it to the Cys residues of IscU, formed a disulfide bridge with Fdx in the presence of an oxidizing agent. Electrons from reduced Fdx were transferred to IscS only in the presence of l-cysteine, but not to the C328S variant. We found that Fdx, IscU, and CyaY (the bacterial frataxin) compete for overlapping binding sites on IscS. This mutual exclusion explains the mechanism by which CyaY inhibits Fe–S cluster biogenesis. These results (1) show that reduced Fdx supplies one electron to the IscS complex as S0 is produced by the enzymatic conversion of Cys to Ala and (2) explain the role of Fdx as a member of the isc operon.
PMCID: PMC3677232  PMID: 23682711
23.  The Functionality of the Three-Sited Ferroxidase Center of E. coli Bacterial Ferritin (EcFtnA)* 
Biochemistry  2014;53(3):483-495.
At least three ferritins are found in the bacterium Escherichia coli, the heme-containing bacterioferritin (EcBFR) and two non-heme bacterial ferritins (EcFtnA and EcFtnB). In addition to the conserved A- and B-sites of the diiron ferroxidase center, EcFtnA has a third iron-binding site (the C-site) of unknown function that is nearby the diiron site. In the present work, the complex chemistry of iron oxidation and deposition in EcFtnA has been further defined through a combination of oximetry, pH stat, stopped-flow and conventional kinetics, UV-visible, fluorescence and EPR spectroscopic measurements on the wild-type protein and site-directed variants of the A-, B- and C-sites. The data reveal that, while H2O2 is a product of dioxygen reduction in EcFtnA and oxidation occurs with a stoichiometry of Fe(II)/O2 ~ 3:1, most of the H2O2 produced is consumed in subsequent reactions with a 2:1 Fe(II)/H2O2 stoichiometry, thus suppressing hydroxyl radical formation. While the A- and B-sites are essential for rapid iron oxidation, the C-site slows oxidation and suppresses iron turnover at the ferroxidase center. A tyrosyl radical, assigned to Tyr24 near the ferroxidase center, is formed during iron oxidation and its possible significance to the function of the protein is discussed. Taken as a whole, the data indicate that there are multiple iron-oxidation pathways in EcFtnA with O2 and H2O2 as oxidants. Furthermore, our data do not support a universal mechanism for iron oxidation in all ferritins whereby the C-site acts as transit site, as recently proposed.
PMCID: PMC3951517  PMID: 24380371
kinetics; bacterial ferritin (EcFtnA); EPR; iron oxidation; site-directed mutagenesis; C-site; trinuclear ferroxidase center; H2O2
24.  Redox Reactions of the Iron-Sulfur Cluster in a Ribosomal RNA Methyltransferase, RumA 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;279(33):34123-34129.
An unprecedented [4Fe-4S] iron-sulfur cluster was found in RumA, the enzyme that methylates U1939 in Escherichia coli 23 S ribosomal RNA (Agarwalla, S., Kealey, J. T., Santi, D. V., and Stroud, R. M. (2002) J. Biol. Chem. 277, 8835–8840; Lee, T. T., Agarwalla, S., and Stroud, R. M. (2004) Structure 12, 397–407). Methyltransferase reactions do not involve a redox step. To understand the structural and functional roles of the cluster in RumA, we have characterized redox reactions of the iron-sulfur cluster. As isolated aerobically, RumA exhibits a visible absorbance maximum at 390 nm and is EPR silent. It cannot be reduced by anaerobic additions of dithionite. Photoreduction by deazariboflavin/EDTA gives EPR spectra, the quantity (56% of S = 1/2 species) and details (gav ~ 1.96–1.93) of which indicate a [4Fe-4S]1+ cluster in the reduced RumA. Oxidation of RumA by ferricyanide leads to loss of the 390-nm band and appearance of lower intensity bands at 444 and 520 nm. EPR spectra of ferricyanide-oxidized RumA show a fraction (<8%) of the FeS cluster trapped in the [3Fe-4S]1+ form (gav ~ 2.011) together with unusual radical-like spectrum (g′ values 2.015, 2.00, and 1.95). RumA also reacts with nitric oxide to give EPR spectra characteristic of the protein-bound iron dinitrosyl species. Oxidation of the cluster leads to its decomposition and that could be a mechanism for regulating the activity of RumA under conditions of oxidative stress in the cell. Sequence data base searches revealed that RumA homologs are widespread in various kingdoms of life and contain a conserved and unique iron-sulfur cluster binding motif, CX5CGGC.
PMCID: PMC1237038  PMID: 15181002
25.  Loss of Iron Sulfur Clusters from Biotin Synthase as a Result of Catalysis Promotes Unfolding and Degradation† 
Biotin synthase (BioB) is an S-adenosylmethionine radical enzyme that catalyzes addition of sulfur to dethiobiotin to form the biotin thiophane ring. In vitro, E. coli BioB is active for only one turnover, during which the [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster is destroyed, one sulfide from the cluster is incorporated as the biotin thiophane sulfur, while Fe2+ ions and the remaining S2- ion are released from the protein. The present work examines the fate of the protein following the loss of the FeS clusters. We examine the quaternary structure and thermal stability of active and inactive states of BioB, and find that loss of either the [4Fe-4S]2+ or [2Fe-2S]2+ clusters results in destabilization but not global unfolding of BioB. Using susceptibility to limited proteolysis as a guide, we find that specific regions of the protein appear to be transiently unfolded following loss of these clusters. We also examine the in vivo degradation of biotin synthase during growth in low-iron minimal media and find that BioB is degraded by an apparent ATP-dependent proteolysis mechanism that sequentially cleaves small fragments starting at the C-terminus. BioB appears to be resistant to degradation and capable of multiple turnovers only under high-iron conditions that favor repair of the FeS clusters, a process most likely mediated by the Isc or Suf iron-sulfur cluster assembly systems.
PMCID: PMC2293955  PMID: 18155152
Biotin synthase; BioB; Iron-Sulfur Cluster; Protein Degradation

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