The mechanisms for acquisition of iron by Haemophilus influenzae and their role in pathogenesis are not known. Heme and nonheme sources of iron were evaluated for their effect on growth of type b and nontypable strains of H. influenzae in an iron-restricted, defined medium. All 13 strains acquired iron from heme, hemoglobin, hemoglobin-haptoglobin, and heme-hemopexin. Among nonheme sources of protein-bound iron, growth of H. influenzae was enhanced by partially saturated human transferrin but not by lactoferrin or ferritin. Purified ferrienterochelin and ferridesferrioxamine failed to provide iron to H. influenzae, and the supernatants of H. influenzae E1a grown in iron-restricted medium failed to enhance iron-restricted growth of siderophore-dependent strains of Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Arthrobacter terregens. Marked alterations in the profile of outer membrane proteins of H. influenzae were observed when the level of free iron was varied between 1 microM and 1 mM. Catechols were not detected in the supernatants of strain E1a; however, iron-related hydroxamate production was detected by two biochemical assays. We conclude that the sources of iron for H. influenzae are diverse. The significance of hydroxamate production and iron-related outer membrane proteins to H. influenzae iron acquisition is not yet clear.
Haemophilus influenzae requires a porphyrin source for aerobic growth and possesses multiple mechanisms to obtain this essential nutrient. This porphyrin requirement may be satisfied by either heme alone, or protoporphyrin IX in the presence of an iron source. One protein involved in heme acquisition by H. influenzae is the periplasmic heme binding protein HbpA. HbpA exhibits significant homology to the dipeptide and heme binding protein DppA of Escherichia coli. DppA is a component of the DppABCDF peptide-heme permease of E. coli. H. influenzae homologs of dppBCDF are located in the genome at a point distant from hbpA. The object of this study was to investigate the potential role of the H. influenzae dppBCDF locus in heme utilization.
An insertional mutation in dppC was constructed and the impact of the mutation on the utilization of both free heme and various proteinaceous heme sources as well as utilization of protoporphyrin IX was determined in growth curve studies. The dppC insertion mutant strain was significantly impacted in utilization of all tested heme sources and protoporphyin IX. Complementation of the dppC mutation with an intact dppCBDF gene cluster in trans corrected the growth defects seen in the dppC mutant strain.
The dppCBDF gene cluster constitutes part of the periplasmic heme-acquisition systems of H. influenzae.
Unencapsulated Haemophilus influenzae is the second most common etiologic agent of otitis media in children. H. influenzae requires heme for aerobic growth in vitro and is able to utilize hemoglobin and complexes of heme-hemopexin, heme-albumin, and hemoglobin-haptoglobin and ferritransferrin as sources of iron and heme in vitro. Several of the acquisition mechanisms have been characterized and been shown to be heme repressible in vitro. However, little is known about the expression of heme and/or iron acquisition mechanisms during infections in the middle ear. This study was performed to determine if the genes encoding heme and iron acquisition proteins are transcribed during in vivo growth and to compare these findings with those for samples grown in vitro. Reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) was used to analyze total RNA fractions derived from in vitro- and in vivo-grown H. influenzae. Genes encoding the transferrin-binding proteins TbpA and TbpB, the 100-kDa hemopexin-binding protein HxuA, and the hemoglobin-binding protein HgpA were transcribed during otitis media. Twelve middle ear fluid samples were analyzed by blind RT-PCR to determine the transcriptional status of these genes in H. influenzae during otitis media. Five isolates had transcripts corresponding to tbpA, tbpB, and hxuA. The presence of hgpA transcripts was variable, depending on the presence of hgpA in the genome of the H. influenzae isolate. Samples without H. influenzae gene transcripts contained other etiologic agents commonly causing otitis media. These data demonstrate that H. influenzae iron and/or heme acquisition genes are transcribed during otitis media and suggest that the microenvironment during acute otitis media starves H. influenzae of heme.
The Haemophilus influenzae ORF designated HI1275 in the Rd KW20 genomic sequence encodes a putative S-adenosyl methyltransferase with significant similarity to tellurite-resistance determinants (tehB) in other species. While the H. influenzae tehB can complement an Escherichia coli tehB mutation, thus restoring tellurite resistance, its role in H. influenzae is unknown. In a previous study defining the iron and haem modulon of H. influenzae, we showed that transcription of this gene in H. influenzae Rd KW20 increases during growth in iron- and haem-restricted media. Since iron and haem uptake genes, and other known virulence factors, constitute the majority of the iron- and haem-regulated gene set, we postulated that tehB may play a role in nutrient acquisition and/or the virulence of H. influenzae. A tehB mutant was constructed in the H. influenzae type b strain 10810 and was evaluated for growth defects in various supplemented media, as well as for its ability to cause infection in rat models of infection. Deletion of tehB leads to an increase in sensitivity both to tellurite and to the oxidizing agents cumene hydroperoxide, tert-butyl hydroperoxide and hydrogen peroxide. The tehB mutant additionally showed a significantly reduced ability to utilize free haem as well as several haem-containing moieties including haem–human serum albumin, haemoglobin and haemoglobin–haptoglobin. Examination of the regulation kinetics indicated that transcription of tehB was independent of both tellurite exposure and oxidative stress. Paired comparisons of the tehB mutant and the wild-type H. influenzae strain 10810 showed that tehB is required for wild-type levels of infection in rat models of H. influenzae invasive disease. To our knowledge this is the first report of a role for tehB in virulence in any bacterial species. These data demonstrate that H. influenzae tehB plays a role in both resistance to oxidative damage and haem uptake/utilization, protects H. influenzae from tellurite exposure, and is important for virulence of this organism in an animal model of invasive disease.
Haemophilus influenzae has an absolute aerobic growth requirement for either heme, or iron in the presence of protoporphyrin IX. Both iron and heme in the mammalian host are strictly limited in their availability to invading microorganisms. Many bacterial species overcome iron limitation in their environment by the synthesis and secretion of small iron binding molecules termed siderophores, which bind iron and deliver it into the bacterial cell via specific siderophore receptor proteins on the bacterial cell surface. There are currently no reports of siderophore production or utilization by H. influenzae.
Comparative genomics revealed a putative four gene operon in the recently sequenced nontypeable H. influenzae strain R2846 that encodes predicted proteins exhibiting significant identity at the amino acid level to proteins involved in the utilization of the siderophore ferrichrome in other bacterial species. No siderophore biosynthesis genes were identified in the R2846 genome. Both comparative genomics and a PCR based analysis identified several additional H. influenzae strains possessing this operon. In growth curve assays strains containing the genes were able to utilize ferrichrome as an iron source. H. influenzae strains lacking the operon were unable to obtain iron from ferrichrome. An insertional mutation in one gene of the operon abrogated the ability of strains to utilize ferrichrome. In addition transcription of genes in the identified operon were repressible by high iron/heme levels in the growth media.
We have identified an iron/heme-repressible siderophore utilization locus present in several nontypeable H. influenzae strains. The same strains do not possess genes encoding proteins associated with siderophore synthesis. The siderophore utilization locus may enable the utilization of siderophores produced by other microorganisms in the polymicrobial environmental niche of the human nasopharynx colonized by H. influenzae. This is the first report of siderophore utilization by H. influenzae.
Bacterial strategies of innate immune evasion and essential metabolic functions are critical for commensal-host homeostasis. Previously, we showed that Sap translocator function is necessary for nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) behaviors that mediate diseases of the human airway. Antimicrobial peptide (AP) lethality is limited by binding mediated by the Sap complex. SapA shares homology with the dipeptide-binding protein (DppA) and the heme-binding lipoprotein (HbpA), both of which have previously been shown to bind the iron-containing compound heme, whose acquisition is essential for Haemophilus survival. Computational modeling revealed conserved SapA residues, similarly modeled to mediate heme binding in HbpA. Here, we directly demonstrate that SapA bound heme and was essential for heme utilization by iron-starved NTHI. Further, the Sap translocator permease mediated heme transport into the bacterial cytoplasm, thus defining a heretofore unknown mechanism of intracytoplasmic membrane heme transport in Haemophilus. Since we demonstrate multiple ligand specificity for the SapA-binding protein, we tested whether APs would compete with heme for SapA binding. We showed that human β-defensins 2 and 3, human cathelicidin LL-37, human neutrophil protein 1, and melittin displaced heme bound to SapA, thus supporting a hierarchy wherein immune evasion supercedes even the needed iron acquisition functions of the Sap system.
Heme uptake is a common means of iron and porphyrin acquisition by many pathogenic bacteria. The genus Haemophilus includes several important pathogenic bacterial species that characteristically require hemin-, protoporphyrin-, or heme-substituted proteins as essential growth factors under aerobic conditions. However, the mechanism of heme transport is not understood for Haemophilus. We have cloned a DNA fragment from H. influenzae that allows an Escherichia coli hemA mutant to employ exogenous hemin or protoporphyrin IX as sole sources of porphyrin. DNA sequencing of the cloned DNA fragment suggested that a previously characterized gene (hel) encoding an antigenic, outer membrane lipoprotein e(P4) was responsible for the complementation activity. Construction of hel insertion mutations in strain H. influenzae Rd demonstrated that hel is essential for growth under aerobic conditions but not under anaerobic conditions. The aerobic growth defect of hel mutants could be reversed by providing exogenous hemin in the presence of outer membrane. The analysis of hybrids between e(P4) and beta-lactamase demonstrated that a domain of e(P4) near its NH2' terminus was required for its function in hemin use. Within this domain is a short amino acid sequence that displays similarity to H. influenzae hemin binding protein HbpA, hemin-binding motifs present in eukaryotic transcription activator heme-activated protein, and the heme containing proteins hemoglobin (alpha-chain) and cytochrome C3, suggesting that this region may be involved in hemin binding and/or transport.
Haemophilus influenzae requires an exogenous heme source for aerobic growth in vitro. Hemoglobin or hemoglobin-haptoglobin satisfies this requirement. Heme acquisition from hemoglobin-haptoglobin is mediated by proteins encoded by hgp genes. Both Hgps and additional proteins, including those encoded by the hxu operon, provide independent pathways for hemoglobin utilization. Recently we showed that deletion of the set of three hgp genes from a nontypeable strain (86-028NP) of H. influenzae attenuated virulence in the chinchilla otitis media model of noninvasive disease. The present study was undertaken to investigate the role of the hgp genes in virulence of the wild-type serotype b clinical isolate HI689 in the infant rat model of hematogenous meningitis, an established model of invasive disease requiring aerobic growth. Bacteremia of high titer and long duration (>14 days) and histopathologically confirmed meningitis occurred in >95% of infant rats challenged at 5 days of age with strain HI689. While mutations disrupting either the Hgp- or Hxu-mediated pathway of heme acquisition had no effect on virulence in infant rats, an isogenic mutant deficient for both pathways was unable to sustain bacteremia or produce meningitis. In contrast, mutations disrupting either pathway decreased the limited ability of H. influenzae to initiate and sustain bacteremia in weanling rats. Biochemical and growth studies also indicated that infant rat plasma contains multiple heme sources that change with age. Taken together, these data indicate that both the hgp genes and the hxuC gene are virulence determinants in the rat model of human invasive disease.
Haemophilus influenzae requires either heme or a porphyrin and iron source for growth. Microarray studies of H. influenzae strain Rd KW20 identified 162 iron/heme-regulated genes, representing ∼10% of the genome, with ≥1.5-fold changes in transcription in response to iron/heme availability in vitro. Eighty genes were preferentially expressed under iron/heme restriction; 82 genes were preferentially expressed under iron/heme-replete conditions.
Haemophilus influenzae has an absolute requirement for heme for aerobic growth. This organism can satisfy this requirement by synthesizing heme from iron and protoporphyrin IX (PPIX). H. influenzae type b (Hib) strain DL42 was found to be unable to form single colonies when grown on a medium containing free iron and PPIX in place of heme. In contrast, the nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHI) strain TN106 grew readily on the same medium. A genomic library from NTHI strain TN106 was used to transform Hib strain DL42, and recombinants were selected on a medium containing iron and PPIX in place of heme. A recombinant plasmid with an 11.5-kb NTHI DNA insert was shown to confer on Hib strain DL42 the ability to grow on iron and PPIX. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed that this NTHI DNA insert contained three genes, designated hitA, hitB, and hitC, which encoded products similar to the SfuABC proteins of Serratia marcescens, which have been shown to constitute a periplasmic binding protein-dependent iron transport system in this enteric organism. The NTHI HitA protein also was 69% identical to the ferric-binding protein of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Inactivation of the cloned NTHI hitC gene by insertion of an antibiotic resistance cartridge eliminated the ability of the recombinant plasmid to complement the growth deficiency of Hib DL42. Construction of an isogenic NTHI TN106 mutant lacking a functional hitC gene revealed that this mutation prevented this strain from growing on a medium containing iron and PPIX in place of heme. This NTHI hitC mutant was also unable to utilize either iron bound to transferrin or iron chelates. These results suggest that the products encoded by the hitABC genes are essential for the utilization of iron by NTHI.
Corynebacterium diphtheriae was examined for the ability to utilize various host compounds as iron sources. C. diphtheriae C7(-) acquired iron from heme, hemoglobin, and transferrin. A siderophore uptake mutant of strain C7 was unable to utilize transferrin but was unaffected in acquisition of iron from heme and hemoglobin, which suggests that C. diphtheriae possesses a novel mechanism for utilizing heme and hemoglobin as iron sources. Mutants of C. diphtheriae and Corynebacterium ulcerans that are defective in acquiring iron from heme and hemoglobin were isolated following chemical mutagenesis and streptonigrin enrichment. A recombinant clone, pCD293, obtained from a C7(-) genomic plasmid library complemented several of the C. ulcerans mutants and three of the C. diphtheriae mutants. The nucleotide sequence of the gene (hmuO) required for complementation was determined and shown to encode a protein with a predicted mass of 24,123 Da. Sequence analysis revealed that HmuO has 33% identity and 70% similarity with the human heme oxygenase enzyme HO-1. Heme oxygenases, which have been well characterized in eukaryotes but have not been identified in prokaryotes, are involved in the oxidation of heme and subsequent release of iron from the heme moiety. It is proposed that the HmuO protein is essential for the utilization of heme as an iron source by C. diphtheriae and that the heme oxygenase activity of HmuO is involved in the release of iron from heme. This is the first report of a bacterial gene whose product has homology to heme oxygenases.
Haemophilus influenzae has an absolute growth requirement for heme and the heme-binding lipoprotein (HbpA) and has been implicated in the utilization of this essential nutrient. We constructed an insertional mutation of hbpA in a type b and a nontypeable H. influenzae strain. In the type b strain, the hbpA mutant was impaired in utilization of heme complexed to either hemopexin or to albumin and in the utilization of low levels of heme but not in the utilization of heme at high levels or of hemoglobin or hemoglobin–haptoglobin complexes. In contrast, the hbpA mutant derivative of the nontypeable strain was impaired in utilization of all tested heme sources. We further examined the impact of the hbpA mutation in animal models of H. influenzae disease. The hbpA mutant of the nontypeable strain was indistinguishable from the wild-type strain in the chinchilla model of otitis media. The hbpA mutant derivative of the type b strain caused bacteremia as well as the wild-type strain in 5-day old infant rats. However, in 30-day old rats the hbpA caused significantly lower rates of bacteremia than the wild-type strain indicating a role for hbpA and heme acquisition in virulence in this model of H. influenzae disease. In conclusion, HbpA is important for heme utilization by multiple H. influenzae strains and is a virulence determinant in a model of H. influenzae invasive disease.
Haemophilus influenzae; Heme; Virulence
Several genetic systems that allow the use of iron-protoporphyrin IX (heme) have been described for the pathogenic bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. However, many questions about the process of heme acquisition and utilization remain to be answered. To isolate and analyze unidentified genes that play a role in heme iron uptake and utilization, a Himar1 transposon mutant library was screened in N. meningitidis serogroup A strain IR4162. One locus identified by transposon mutagenesis conferred protection against heme toxicity. A mutant with a deletion in a gene termed ght (gene of hydrophobic agent tolerance) within this locus was susceptible to heme and other hydrophobic agents compared to the parental strain. Transcriptional analysis indicated that ght is cotranscribed with an upstream open reading frame NMA2149. Uncharacterized orthologues of ght were identified in many other gram-negative bacteria. We present genetic evidence for the importance of ght in resistance to hydrophobic agents and its potential role in interaction with other hydrophobic agent resistance mechanisms within N. meningitidis.
Efficient iron acquisition is critical for an invading microbe’s survival and virulence. Most of the iron in mammals is incorporated into heme, which can be plundered by certain bacterial pathogens as a nutritional iron source. Utilization of exogenous heme by bacteria involves the binding of heme or hemoproteins to the cell surface receptors, followed by the transport of heme into cells. Once taken into the cytosol, heme is presented to heme oxygenases where the tetrapyrrole ring is cleaved in order to release the iron. Some Gram-negative bacteria also secrete extracellular heme-binding proteins called hemophores, which function to sequester heme from the environment. The heme transport genes are often genetically linked as gene clusters under Fur (Ferric uptake repressor) regulation. This review discusses the gene clusters and proteins involved in bacterial heme acquisition, transport and processing processes, with special focus on the heme coordination, protein structures and mechanisms underlying heme transport.
Heme; transport; structure; bacteria; iron; pathogen
The hmuO gene is required for the utilization of heme and hemoglobin as iron sources by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The product of hmuO has homology to eukaryotic heme oxygenases which are involved in the degradation of heme and the release of iron. To investigate the mechanism of hmuO regulation, a promoterless lacZ gene present on the promoter-probe vector pCM502 was placed under transcriptional control of the hmuO promoter. In C. diphtheriae C7, optimal expression from the hmuO promoter was obtained only in the presence of heme or hemoglobin under low-iron conditions. Expression of hmuO in high-iron medium containing heme was repressed five- to sixfold from that seen under low-iron conditions in the presence of heme. Transcription from the hmuO promoter in the absence of heme or hemoglobin was fully repressed in high-iron medium and was expressed at very low levels in iron-depleted conditions. Expression studies with tile hmuO-lacZ fusion construct in C7hm723, a dtxR mutant of C7, and in a hmuO mutant of C. diphtheriae HC1 provided further evidence that transcription of the hmuO promoter is repressed by DtxR and iron and activated by heme. In Escherichia coli, the hmuO promoter was expressed at very low levels under all conditions examined. Gel mobility shift assays and DNase I footprinting experiments indicated that DtxR binds in a metal-dependent manner to a sequence that overlaps the putative hmuO promoter. Total cellular RNA isolated from C. diphtheriae was used to identify the transcriptional start site for the hmuO gene. Northern blot analysis suggested that the hmuO mRNA was monocistronic and that transcription was heme inducible.
Haemophilus influenzae is nearly unique among facultatively anaerobic bacteria in its absolute requirement for exogenously supplied heme for aerobic growth. In this study, a mutant analysis strategy was used to facilitate identification of H. influenzae cell envelope components involved in the uptake of heme. Chemical mutagenesis was employed to produce a mutant of a nontypeable H. influenzae strain unable to utilize either protein-bound forms of heme or low levels of free heme. This mutant was transformed with a plasmid shuttle vector-based genomic library constructed from the same wild-type nontypeable H. influenzae strain, and a growth selection technique was used to obtain a recombinant clone that could utilize heme. Analysis of the DNA insert in the recombinant plasmid revealed the presence of several open reading frames, one of which encoded a 28-kDa protein with significant similarity to the TonB protein of Escherichia coli. This H. influenzae gene product was able to complement a tonB mutation in E. coli, allowing the E. coli tonB mutant to form single colonies on minimal medium containing vitamin B12. When this H. influenzae gene was inactivated by insertional mutagenesis techniques and introduced into the chromosome of wild-type strains of H. influenzae type b, the resultant transformants lost their abilities to utilize heme and produce invasive disease in an animal model. Genetic restoration of the ability to express this TonB homolog resulted in the simultaneous acquisition of both heme utilization ability and virulence. These results indicate that the H. influenzae TonB protein is required not only for heme utilization by this pathogen in vitro, but also for virulence of H. influenzae type b in an animal model.
Yersinia pestis possesses a heme-protein acquisition system (Hmu) that allows it to utilize heme and heme-protein complexes as the sole sources of iron. Analysis of the Y. pestis CO92 genomic sequence revealed a second heme-protein acquisition gene cluster that shares homology with the hemophore-dependent heme acquisition system (Has system) of Serratia marcescens. This locus consisted of the hasRyp receptor gene, the hasAyp hemophore gene, and genes encoding components of the HasAyp dedicated ABC transporter factor (hasDEyp), as well as a tonB homologue (hasByp). By using a reconstituted secretion system in Escherichia coli, we showed that HasAyp is a secreted heme-binding protein and that expression of HasAyp is iron regulated in E. coli. The use of a transcriptional reporter fusion showed that the hasRADEB promoter is Fur regulated and has increased activity at 37°C. Hemoglobin utilization via the Hasyp system was studied with both E. coli and Y. pestis, for which has and has hmu mutant strains were used. No contribution of the Has system to heme utilization was observed in either E. coli or Y. pestis under the conditions we tested. Previously it was shown that a deletion of the Hmu system had no effect on the virulence of Y. pestis in a mouse model of bubonic plague. An Hmu− Has− double mutant also retained full virulence in this model of infection. This report constitutes the first attempt to investigate the contribution of the hemophore-dependent heme acquisition system in bacterial pathogenicity.
Iron acquisition is a vital process for most pathogenic bacteria, as iron is a limiting nutrient during infection. Staphylococcus aureus, an increasingly important pathogen, acquires iron from host heme via elaboration of the iron-regulated surface determinant system (Isd). IsdG and IsdI are heme oxygenases that have been proposed to degrade exogenous heme in the bacterial cytoplasm as a mechanism to liberate free iron for use as a nutrient source. Herein, web report that IsdG and IsdI are both important for S. aureus growth on hemin as a sole iron source and are necessary for full S. aureus pathogenesis. Investigations into the regulation of these enzymes revealed that IsdG and IsdI are differentially regulated by iron and heme through both transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. Additionally, IsdI was found to be expressed in infected tissues at the sites of abscess formation, suggesting that abscesses are iron-starved microenvironments inside the host. These findings suggest that S. aureus differentially regulates IsdG and IsdI in response to alterations in iron and heme availability during infection.
heme oxygenase; iron; post-transcriptional regulation; protein stability; Staphylococcus aureus
The sequestration of iron by mammalian hosts represents a significant obstacle to the establishment of a bacterial infection. In response, pathogenic bacteria have evolved mechanisms to acquire iron from host heme. Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, utilizes secreted hemophores to scavenge heme from host hemoglobin, thereby facilitating iron acquisition from extracellular heme pools and delivery to iron-regulated surface determinant (Isd) proteins covalently attached to the cell wall. However, several Gram-positive pathogens, including B. anthracis, contain genes that encode near iron transporter (NEAT) proteins that are genomically distant from the genetically linked Isd locus. NEAT domains are protein modules that partake in several functions related to heme transport, including binding heme and hemoglobin. This finding raises interesting questions concerning the relative role of these NEAT proteins, relative to hemophores and the Isd system, in iron uptake. Here, we present evidence that a B. anthracis S-layer homology (SLH) protein harboring a NEAT domain binds and directionally transfers heme to the Isd system via the cell wall protein IsdC. This finding suggests that the Isd system can receive heme from multiple inputs and may reflect an adaptation of B. anthracis to changing iron reservoirs during an infection. Understanding the mechanism of heme uptake in pathogenic bacteria is important for the development of novel therapeutics to prevent and treat bacterial infections.
Haemophilus influenzae is a heme-dependent bacterium. However, little is known of the heme-iron uptake mechanism in this organism. By using a batch ligand affinity chromatography method, a hemin-binding protein of 39,500 molecular weight was isolated from total membranes derived from H. influenzae type b grown under iron-depleted but not under iron-sufficient conditions. Detection of the hemin-binding protein in a whole-cell binding assay demonstrated a surface-exposed location. Competition binding experiments indicated that this hemin-protein interaction was specific, since only hemin or heme-containing proteins, such as human hemoglobin and bovine catalase, but not protoporphyrin IX, iron-loaded human lactoferrin, or transferrin, could abrogate binding. In a limited survey of other H. influenzae strains, an identical hemin-binding protein was isolated, implying that this polypeptide may be structurally and functionally conserved among strains.
We have constructed defined deletions in the hmuO gene from Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Corynebacterium ulcerans and show that the C. ulcerans hmuO mutation results in a significant reduction in hemoglobin-iron utilization, whereas in C. diphtheriae strains, deletion of hmuO caused no or only partial reduction in the utilization of heme as an iron source. We also show that expression from the C. ulcerans hmuO promoter exhibits minimal regulation by iron and heme whereas transcription from the C. diphtheriae hmuO promoter shows both significant iron repression and heme-dependent activation. These findings indicate that variability in HmuO function and expression exists among Corynebacterium species.
The Bordetella pertussis heme utilization gene cluster hurIR bhuRSTUV encodes regulatory and transport functions required for assimilation of iron from heme and hemoproteins. Expression of the bhu genes is iron regulated and heme inducible. The putative extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factor, HurI, is required for heme-responsive bhu gene expression. In this study, transcriptional activation of B. pertussis bhu genes in response to heme compounds was shown to be dose dependent and specific for heme; protoporphyrin IX and other heme structural analogs did not activate bhu gene expression. Two promoters controlling expression of the heme utilization genes were mapped by primer extension analysis. The hurI promoter showed similarity to σ70-like promoters, and its transcriptional activity was iron regulated and heme independent. A second promoter identified upstream of bhuR exhibited little similarity to previously characterized ECF σ factor-dependent promoters. Expression of bhuR was iron regulated, heme responsive, and hurI dependent in B. pertussis, as shown in a previous study with Bordetella bronchiseptica. Further analyses showed that transcription originating at a distal upstream site and reading through the hurR-bhuR intergenic region contributes to bhuR expression under iron starvation conditions in the absence of heme inducer. The pattern of regulation of the readthrough transcript was consistent with transcription from the hurI promoter. The positions and regulation of the two promoters within the hur-bhu gene cluster influence the production of heme transport machinery so that maximal expression of the bhu genes occurs under iron starvation conditions only in the presence of heme iron sources.
Corynebacterium diphtheriae, the causative agent of diphtheria, utilizes various host compounds to acquire iron. The C. diphtheriae hmuO gene encodes a heme oxygenase that is involved in the utilization of heme and hemoglobin as iron sources. Transcription of the hmuO gene in C. diphtheriae is controlled under a dual regulatory mechanism in which the diphtheria toxin repressor protein (DtxR) and iron repress expression while either heme or hemoglobin is needed to activate transcription. In this study, two clones isolated from a C. diphtheriae chromosomal library were shown to activate transcription from the hmuO promoter in Escherichia coli. Sequence analysis revealed that these activator clones each carried distinct genes whose products had significant homology to response regulators of two-component signal transduction systems. Located upstream from each of these response regulator homologs are partial open reading frames that are predicted to encode the C-terminal portions of sensor kinases. The full-length sensor kinase gene for each of these systems was cloned from the C. diphtheriae chromosome, and constructs each carrying one complete sensor kinase gene and its cognate response regulator were constructed. One of these constructs, pTSB20, which carried the response regulator (chrA) and its cognate sensor kinase (chrS), was shown to strongly activate transcription from the hmuO promoter in a heme-dependent manner in E. coli. A mutation in chrA (chrAD50N), which changed a conserved aspartic acid residue at position 50, the presumed site of phosphorylation by ChrS, to an asparagine, abolished heme-dependent activation. These findings suggest that the sensor kinase ChrS is involved in the detection of heme and the transduction of this signal, via a phosphotransfer mechanism, to the response regulator ChrA, which then activates transcription of the hmuO promoter. This is the first report of a bacterial two-component signal transduction system that controls gene expression through a heme-responsive mechanism.
Although Haemophilus influenzae requires heme for growth, the source of heme during invasive infections is not known. We compared heme, lactoperoxidase, catalase, cytochrome c, myoglobin, and hemoglobin as sources of heme for growth in defined media. The minimum concentration of heme permitting unrestricted growth of strain E1a, an H. influenzae type b isolate from cerebrospinal fluid, was 0.02 micrograms/ml. Using molar equivalents of heme as lactoperoxidase, catalase, cytochrome c, myoglobin, and hemoglobin, we determined that myoglobin and hemoglobin permitted unrestricted growth at this concentration. To determine the ability of host defenses to sequester heme from H. influenzae, we used affinity chromatography to purify human haptoglobin and hemopexin, serum proteins which bind hemoglobin and heme. Plate assays revealed that 12 strains of H. influenzae acquired heme from hemoglobin, hemoglobin-haptoglobin, heme-hemopexin, and heme-albumin. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of outer membrane proteins of strain E1a grown in heme-replete and heme-restricted conditions revealed a heme-repressible outer membrane protein with an apparent molecular mass of 38 kilodaltons. These results demonstrated that, unlike Escherichia coli, H. influenzae may acquire heme from hemoglobin-haptoglobin. H. influenzae also may acquire heme from hemopexin and albumin, which have not been previously investigated. The role of outer membrane proteins in the acquisition of heme is not yet clear.
Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella bronchiseptica are capable of obtaining iron from hemin and hemoglobin. Genes encoding a putative bacterial heme iron acquisition system (bhu, for Bordetella heme utilization) were identified in a B. pertussis genomic sequence database, and the corresponding DNA was isolated from a virulent strain of B. pertussis. A B. pertussis bhuR mutant, predicted to lack the heme outer membrane receptor, was generated by allelic exchange. In contrast to the wild-type strain, bhuR mutant PM5 was incapable of acquiring iron from hemin and hemoglobin; genetic complementation of PM5 with the cloned bhuRSTUV genes restored heme utilization to wild-type levels. In parallel studies, B. bronchiseptica bhu sequences were also identified and a B. bronchiseptica bhuR mutant was constructed and confirmed to be defective in heme iron acquisition. The wild-type B. bronchiseptica parent strain grown under low-iron conditions produced the presumptive BhuR protein, which was absent in the bhuR mutant. Furthermore, production of BhuR by iron-starved B. bronchiseptica was markedly enhanced by culture in hemin-supplemented medium, suggesting that these organisms sense and respond to heme in the environment. Analysis of the genetic region upstream of the bhu cluster identified open reading frames predicted to encode homologs of the Escherichia coli ferric citrate uptake regulators FecI and FecR. These putative Bordetella regulators may mediate heme-responsive positive transcriptional control of the bhu genes.