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1.  The regulation by iron of the synthesis of adhesins and cytoadherence levels in the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis 
Levels of adherence of Trichomonas vaginalis to epithelial cells was found to be modulated by iron. Cytoadherence values were greater than or equal to twofold higher for trichomonads grown in a complex cultivation medium supplemented with iron. This increase in adherence levels was specifically mediated by iron; parasites cultured in a low- iron medium in the presence of salts other than iron were unresponsive to changes in adherence levels. Expression of the higher adherence property, by parasites grown first in low-iron medium followed by supplementation with iron, was a function of time, and the extent of cytoadherence was proportional to the concentration of iron added to the medium. Lactoferrin, an important iron source for trichomonads at the site of infection, elevated adherence of the parasite to epithelial cells, demonstrating the likely in vivo modulation of adherence by iron. The alteration of levels of adherence caused by iron was determined to be a reflection of gene expression of previously characterized trichomonad adhesins. Parasites grown under iron-replete conditions had higher quantities of surface-exposed adhesins, and this was a result of increased synthesis of adhesins. Actinomycin D and alpha-amanitin prevented expression of adhesin molecules, which resulted in decreased cytoadherence, showing that adhesin synthesis was dependent on gene transcription. Data indicated that genes encoding the four trichomonad adhesins are coordinately regulated by iron.
PMCID: PMC2118921  PMID: 1856625
2.  Specific erythrocyte binding is an additional nutrient acquisition system for Trichomonas vaginalis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1990;171(6):2165-2170.
Specific receptor-mediated binding by Trichomonas vaginalis of human erythrocytes was demonstrated. The ability of live parasites to internalize erythrocytes was also documented. In vitro growth assays during lipid-free and iron-limiting conditions that do not support the survival of T. vaginalis organisms showed that purified erythrocyte lipids and hemoglobin were each able to provide lipids and/or hemoglobin iron for trichomonal growth and multiplication. Parasites bound hemoglobin in a highly specific receptor-mediated fashion, and only the homologous unlabeled hemoglobin, but not lactoferrin and transferrin, competed with iodinated hemoglobin binding. Two antibody- crossreactive surface proteins of the parasites were identified as adhesins, and antibody to the individual adhesins inhibited T. vaginalis recognition and binding of erythrocytes. Finally, patient sera possessed antibody to the adhesins, showing the immunogenic nature and in vivo relevance of the trichomonad proteins during infection.
PMCID: PMC2187958  PMID: 2351937
3.  Transcriptomic Identification of Iron-Regulated and Iron-Independent Gene Copies within the Heavily Duplicated Trichomonas vaginalis Genome 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;4(10):1017-1029.
Gene duplication is an important evolutionary mechanism and no eukaryote has more duplicated gene families than the parasitic protist Trichomonas vaginalis. Iron is an essential nutrient for Trichomonas and plays a pivotal role in the establishment of infection, proliferation, and virulence. To gain insight into the role of iron in T. vaginalis gene expression and genome evolution, we screened iron-regulated genes using an oligonucleotide microarray for T. vaginalis and by comparative EST (expressed sequence tag) sequencing of cDNA libraries derived from trichomonads cultivated under iron-rich (+Fe) and iron-restricted (−Fe) conditions. Among 19,000 ESTs from both libraries, we identified 336 iron-regulated genes, of which 165 were upregulated under +Fe conditions and 171 under −Fe conditions. The microarray analysis revealed that 195 of 4,950 unique genes were differentially expressed. Of these, 117 genes were upregulated under +Fe conditions and 78 were upregulated under −Fe conditions. The results of both methods were congruent concerning the regulatory trends and the representation of gene categories. Under +Fe conditions, the expression of proteins involved in carbohydrate metabolism, particularly in the energy metabolism of hydrogenosomes, and in methionine catabolism was increased. The iron–sulfur cluster assembly machinery and certain cysteine proteases are of particular importance among the proteins upregulated under −Fe conditions. A unique feature of the T. vaginalis genome is the retention during evolution of multiple paralogous copies for a majority of all genes. Although the origins and reasons for this gene expansion remain unclear, the retention of multiple gene copies could provide an opportunity to evolve differential expression during growth in variable environmental conditions. For genes whose expression was affected by iron, we found that iron influenced the expression of only some of the paralogous copies, whereas the expression of the other paralogs was iron independent. This finding indicates a very stringent regulation of the differentially expressed paralogous genes in response to changes in the availability of exogenous nutrients and provides insight into the evolutionary rationale underlying massive paralog retention in the Trichomonas genome.
PMCID: PMC3490414  PMID: 22975721
gene duplication; iron; microarrays; EST analysis
4.  Acquisition of iron from transferrin and lactoferrin by the protozoan Leishmania chagasi. 
Infection and Immunity  1994;62(8):3262-3269.
Leishmania chagasi, the cause of South American visceral leishmaniasis, requires iron for its growth. However, the extent to which different iron sources can be utilized by the parasite is not known. To address this question, we studied acquisition of iron from lactoferrin and transferrin by the extracellular promastigote form of L. chagasi during growth in vitro. A promastigote growth medium based on minimal essential medium supplemented with iron-depleted serum supported promastigote growth only after the addition of exogenous iron. The addition of 8 microM iron chelated to lactoferrin or hemin resulted in normal promastigote growth. Ferritransferrin also supported promastigote growth, but only after a considerable lag. Promastigotes grown in all three iron sources generated similar amounts of hydroxyl radical upon exposure to hydrogen peroxide, indicating that none of these protected parasites against generation of this toxic radical. Promastigotes were able to take up 59Fe chelated to either transferrin or lactoferrin, although uptake from 59Fe-lactoferrin occurred more rapidly. 59Fe uptake from either 59Fe-transferrin or 59Fe-lactoferrin was inhibited by a 10-fold excess of unlabeled ferrilactoferrin, ferritransferrin, apolactoferrin, apotransferrin, or iron nitrilotriacetate but not ferritin or bovine serum albumin. There was no evidence for a role for parasite-derived siderophores or proteolytic cleavage of ferritransferrin or ferrilactoferrin in the acquisition of iron by promastigotes. Thus, L. chagasi promastigotes can acquire iron from hemin, ferrilactoferrin, or ferritransferrin. This capacity to utilize several iron sources may contribute to the organism's ability to survive in the diverse environments it encounters in the insect and mammalian hosts.
PMCID: PMC302954  PMID: 8039896
5.  Iron – A Key Nexus in the Virulence of Aspergillus fumigatus 
Iron is an essential but, in excess, toxic nutrient. Therefore, fungi evolved fine-tuned mechanisms for uptake and storage of iron, such as the production of siderophores (low-molecular mass iron-specific chelators). In Aspergillus fumigatus, iron starvation causes extensive transcriptional remodeling involving two central transcription factors, which are interconnected in a negative transcriptional feed-back loop: the GATA-factor SreA and the bZip-factor HapX. During iron sufficiency, SreA represses iron uptake, including reductive iron assimilation and siderophore-mediated iron uptake, to avoid toxic effects. During iron starvation, HapX represses iron-consuming pathways, including heme biosynthesis and respiration, to spare iron and activates synthesis of ribotoxin AspF1 and siderophores, the latter partly by ensuring supply of the precursor, ornithine. In accordance with the expression pattern and mode of action, detrimental effects of inactivation of SreA and HapX are confined to growth during iron sufficiency and iron starvation, respectively. Deficiency in HapX, but not SreA, attenuates virulence of A. fumigatus in a murine model of aspergillosis, which underlines the crucial role of adaptation to iron limitation in virulence. Consistently, production of both extra and intracellular siderophores is crucial for virulence of A. fumigatus. Recently, the sterol regulatory element binding protein SrbA was found to be essential for adaptation to iron starvation, thereby linking regulation of iron metabolism, ergosterol biosynthesis, azole drug resistance, and hypoxia adaptation.
PMCID: PMC3272694  PMID: 22347220
iron; virulence; fungi; siderophore; isoprenoid; ergosterol; mevalonate; ornithine
6.  Iron and contact with host cells induce expression of adhesins on surface of Trichomonas vaginalis 
Molecular microbiology  2003;47(5):1207-1224.
The proteins AP65, AP51, AP33 and AP23 synthesized by Trichomonas vaginalis organisms in high iron play a role in adherence. Multigene families encode enzymes of the hydrogenosome organelles, which have identity to adhesins. This fact raises questions regarding the compartmentalization of the proteins outside the organelle and about the interactions of adhesins with host cells. Data here demonstrate the presence of the proteins outside the organelle under high-iron conditions. Fluorescence and immunocytochemical experiments show that high-iron-grown organisms coexpressed adhesins on the surface and intracellularly in contrast with low-iron parasites. Furthermore, the AP65 epitopes seen by rabbit anti-AP65 serum that blocks adherence and detects surface proteins were identified, and a mAb reacting to those epitopes recognized the trichomonal surface. Two-dimensional electrophoresis and immunoblot of adhesins from surface-labelled parasites provided evidence that all members of the multigene family were co-ordinately expressed and placed on the trichomonal surface. Similar two-dimensional analysis of proteins from purified hydrogenosomes obtained from iodinated trichomonads confirmed the specific surface labelling of proteins. Contact of trichomonads with vaginal epithelial cells increased the amount of surface-expressed adhesins. Moreover, we found a direct relationship between the levels of adherence and amount of adhesins bound to immortalized vaginal and ureter epithelial cells, further reinforcing specific associations. Finally, trichomonads of MR100, a drug-resistant isolate absent in hydrogenosome proteins and adhesins, were non-adherent. Overall, the results confirm an important role for iron and contact in the surface expression of adhesins of T. vaginalis organisms.
PMCID: PMC2562637  PMID: 12603729
7.  NalP-Mediated Proteolytic Release of Lactoferrin-Binding Protein B from the Meningococcal Cell Surface ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(7):3083-3089.
Bacteria have developed several mechanisms for iron uptake during colonization of mammalian hosts, where the availability of free iron is limiting for growth. Neisseria meningitidis expresses under iron-limiting conditions a receptor complex consisting of the lactoferrin-binding proteins A (LbpA) and LbpB to acquire iron from lactoferrin, which is abundantly present on the mucosal surfaces of the human nasopharynx. LbpA is an integral outer membrane-embedded iron transporter, whereas LbpB is a cell surface-exposed lipoprotein. In this study, we demonstrate that LbpB is also released into the culture medium. We identified NalP, an autotransporter known to be involved in the processing of other autotransporters, as the protease responsible for LbpB release. This release of LbpB reduced the complement-mediated killing of the bacteria when incubated with an LbpB-specific bactericidal antiserum. Since antibodies directed against LbpB are found in convalescent-patient sera, the release of an immunogenic protein as LbpB may represent a novel means for N. meningitidis to escape the human immune response.
PMCID: PMC2897402  PMID: 20421383
8.  Iron Status in Mice Carrying a Targeted Disruption of Lactoferrin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(1):178-185.
Lactoferrin is a member of the transferrin family of iron-binding glycoproteins present in milk, mucosal secretions, and the secondary granules of neutrophils. While several physiological functions have been proposed for lactoferrin, including the regulation of intestinal iron uptake, the exact function of this protein in vivo remains to be established. To directly assess the physiological functions of lactoferrin, we have generated lactoferrin knockout (LFKO−/−) mice by homologous gene targeting. LFKO−/− mice are viable and fertile, develop normally, and display no overt abnormalities. A comparison of the iron status of suckling offspring from LFKO−/− intercrosses and from wild-type (WT) intercrosses showed that lactoferrin is not essential for iron delivery during the postnatal period. Further, analysis of adult mice on a basal or a high-iron diet revealed no differences in transferrin saturation or tissue iron stores between WT and LFKO−/− mice on either diet, although the serum iron levels were slightly elevated in LFKO-/- mice on the basal diet. Consistent with the relatively normal iron status, in situ hybridization analysis demonstrated that lactoferrin is not expressed in the postnatal or adult intestine. Collectively, these results support the conclusion that lactoferrin does not play a major role in the regulation of iron homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC140657  PMID: 12482971
9.  Iron uptake and increased intracellular enzyme activity follow host lactoferrin binding by Trichomonas vaginalis receptors 
Lactoferrin acquisition and iron uptake by pathogenic Trichomonas vaginalis was examined. Saturation binding kinetics were obtained for trichomonads using increasing amounts of radioiodinated lactoferrin, while no significant binding by transferrin under similar conditions was achieved. Only unlabeled lactoferrin successfully and stoichiometrically competed with 125I-labeled lactoferrin binding. Time course studies showed maximal lactoferrin binding by 30 min at 37 degrees C. Data suggest no internalization of bound lactoferrin. The accumulation of radioactivity in supernatants after incubation of T. vaginalis with 125I-labeled lactoferrin and washing in PBS suggested the presence of low affinity sites for this host macromolecule. Scatchard analysis indicated the presence of 90,000 receptors per trichomonad with an apparent Kd of 1.0 microM. Two trichomonad lactoferrin binding proteins were identified by affinity chromatography and immunoprecipitation of receptor-ligand complexes. A 30-fold accumulation of iron was achieved using 59Fe-lactoferrin when compared to the steady state concentration of bound lactoferrin. The activity of pyruvate/ferrodoxin oxidoreductase, an enzyme involved in trichomonal energy metabolism, increased more than sixfold following exposure of the parasites to lactoferrin, demonstrating a biologic response to the receptor-mediated binding of lactoferrin. These data suggest that T. vaginalis possesses specific receptors for biologically relevant host proteins and that these receptors contribute to the metabolic processes of the parasites.
PMCID: PMC2187462  PMID: 6088662
10.  Clinical and Microbiological Aspects of Trichomonas vaginalis 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  1998;11(2):300-317.
Trichomonas vaginalis, a parasitic protozoan, is the etiologic agent of trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) of worldwide importance. Trichomoniasis is the most common nonviral STD, and it is associated with many perinatal complications, male and female genitourinary tract infections, and an increased incidence of HIV transmission. Diagnosis is difficult, since the symptoms of trichomoniasis mimic those of other STDs and detection methods lack precision. Although current treatment protocols involving nitroimidazoles are curative, metronidazole resistance is on the rise, outlining the need for research into alternative antibiotics. Vaccine development has been limited by a lack of understanding of the role of the host immune response to T. vaginalis infection. The lack of a good animal model has made it difficult to conduct standardized studies in drug and vaccine development and pathogenesis. Current work on pathogenesis has focused on the host-parasite relationship, in particular the initial events required to establish infection. These studies have illustrated that the pathogenesis of T. vaginalis is indeed very complex and involves adhesion, hemolysis, and soluble factors such as cysteine proteinases and cell-detaching factor. T. vaginalis interaction with the members of the resident vaginal flora, an advanced immune evasion strategy, and certain stress responses enable the organism to survive in its changing environment. Clearly, further research and collaboration will help elucidate these pathogenic mechanisms, and with better knowledge will come improved disease control.
PMCID: PMC106834  PMID: 9564565
11.  Iron Acquisition from Transferrin by Candida albicans Depends on the Reductive Pathway  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(9):5482-5492.
Host-pathogen interactions that alter virulence are influenced by critical nutrients such as iron. In humans, free iron is unavailable, being present only in high-affinity iron binding proteins such as transferrin. The fungal pathogen Candida albicans grows as a saprophyte on mucosal surfaces. Occasionally it invades systemically, and in this circumstance it will encounter transferrin iron. Here we report that C. albicans is able to acquire iron from transferrin. Iron-loaded transferrin restored growth to cultures arrested by iron deprivation, whereas apotransferrin was unable to promote growth. By using congenic strains, we have been able to show that iron uptake by C. albicans from transferrin was mediated by the reductive pathway (via FTR1). The genetically separate siderophore and heme uptake systems were not involved. FRE10 was required for a surface reductase activity and for efficient transferrin iron uptake activity in unbuffered medium. Other reductase genes were apparently up-regulated in medium buffered at pH 6.3 to 6.4, and the fre10−/− mutant had no effect under these conditions. Experiments in which transferrin was sequestered in a dialysis bag demonstrated that cell contact with the substrate was required for iron reduction and release. The requirement of FTR1 for virulence in a systemic infection model and its role in transferrin iron uptake raise the possibility that transferrin is a source of iron during systemic C. albicans infections.
PMCID: PMC1231083  PMID: 16113264
12.  Genetics and molecular biology of siderophore-mediated iron transport in bacteria. 
Microbiological Reviews  1989;53(4):517-530.
The possession of specialized iron transport systems may be crucial for bacteria to override the iron limitation imposed by the host or the environment. One of the most commonly found strategies evolved by microorganisms is the production of siderophores, low-molecular-weight iron chelators that have very high constants of association for their complexes with iron. Thus, siderophores act as extracellular solubilizing agents for iron from minerals or organic compounds, such as transferrin and lactoferrin in the host vertebrate, under conditions of iron limitation. Transport of iron into the cell cytosol is mediated by specific membrane receptor and transport systems which recognize the iron-siderophore complexes. In this review I have analyzed in detail three siderophore-mediated iron uptake systems: the plasmid-encoded anguibactin system of Vibrio anguillarum, the aerobactin-mediated iron assimilation system present in the pColV-K30 plasmid and in the chromosomes of many enteric bacteria, and the chromosomally encoded enterobactin iron uptake system, found in Escherichia coli, Shigella spp., Salmonella spp., and other members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. The siderophore systems encoded by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, namely, pyochelin and pyoverdin, as well as the siderophore amonabactin, specified by Aeromonas hydrophila, are also discussed. The potential role of siderophore-mediated systems as virulence determinants in the specific host-bacteria interaction leading to disease is also analyzed with respect to the influence of these systems in the expression of other factors, such as toxins, in the bacterial virulence repertoire.
PMCID: PMC372751  PMID: 2531838
13.  The role of iron in Mycobacterium smegmatis biofilm formation: the exochelin siderophore is essential in limiting iron conditions for biofilm formation but not for planktonic growth 
Molecular Microbiology  2007;66(2):468-483.
Many species of mycobacteria form structured biofilm communities at liquid–air interfaces and on solid surfaces. Full development of Mycobacterium smegmatis biofilms requires addition of supplemental iron above 1 μM ferrous sulphate, although addition of iron is not needed for planktonic growth. Microarray analysis of the M. smegmatis transcriptome shows that iron-responsive genes – especially those involved in siderophore synthesis and iron uptake – are strongly induced during biofilm formation reflecting a response to iron deprivation, even when 2 μM iron is present. The acquisition of iron under these conditions is specifically dependent on the exochelin synthesis and uptake pathways, and the strong defect of an iron–exochelin uptake mutant suggests a regulatory role of iron in the transition to biofilm growth. In contrast, although the expression of mycobactin and iron ABC transport operons is highly upregulated during biofilm formation, mutants in these systems form normal biofilms in low-iron (2 μM) conditions. A close correlation between iron availability and matrix-associated fatty acids implies a possible metabolic role in the late stages of biofilm maturation, in addition to the early regulatory role. M. smegmatis surface motility is similarly dependent on iron availability, requiring both supplemental iron and the exochelin pathway to acquire it.
PMCID: PMC2170428  PMID: 17854402
14.  α-Actinin TvACTN3 of Trichomonas vaginalis Is an RNA-Binding Protein That Could Participate in Its Posttranscriptional Iron Regulatory Mechanism 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:424767.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a sexually transmitted flagellated protist parasite responsible for trichomoniasis. This parasite is dependent on high levels of iron, favoring its growth and multiplication. Iron also differentially regulates some trichomonad virulence properties by unknown mechanisms. However, there is evidence to support the existence of gene regulatory mechanisms at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels that are mediated by iron concentration in T. vaginalis. Thus, the goal of this study was to identify an RNA-binding protein in T. vaginalis that interacts with the tvcp4 RNA stem-loop structure, which may participate in a posttranscriptional iron regulatory mechanism mediated by RNA-protein interactions. We performed RNA electrophoretic mobility shift assay (REMSA) and supershift, UV cross-linking, Northwestern blot, and western blot (WB) assays using cytoplasmic protein extracts from T. vaginalis with the tvcp4 RNA hairpin structure as a probe. We identified a 135-kDa protein isolated by the UV cross-linking assays as α-actinin 3 (TvACTN3) by MALDI-TOF-MS that was confirmed by LS-MS/MS and de novo sequencing. TvACTN3 is a cytoplasmic protein that specifically binds to hairpin RNA structures from trichomonads and humans when the parasites are grown under iron-depleted conditions. Thus, TvACTN3 could participate in the regulation of gene expression by iron in T. vaginalis through a parallel posttranscriptional mechanism similar to that of the IRE/IRP system.
PMCID: PMC3955661  PMID: 24719864
15.  Identification of a Human Lactoferrin-Binding Protein in Gardnerella vaginalis 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(6):3443-3447.
Previous studies have shown that Gardnerella vaginalis can utilize iron-loaded human lactoferrin as a sole source of iron. In this study, G. vaginalis cells were shown to bind digoxigenin (DIG)-labeled human lactoferrin in a dot blot assay. Using the DIG-labeled human lactoferrin, a 120-kDa human lactoferrin-binding protein was detected by Western blot analysis of G. vaginalis proteins. The lactoferrin-binding activity of this protein was found to be heat stable. Competition studies indicated that this binding activity was specific for human lactoferrin. Treatment of G. vaginalis cells with proteases suggested that this protein was surface exposed. An increase in lactoferrin binding by the 120-kDa protein was observed in G. vaginalis cells grown under iron-restrictive conditions, suggesting that this activity may be iron regulated.
PMCID: PMC97621  PMID: 10816496
16.  TonB-dependent transporters and their occurrence in cyanobacteria 
BMC Biology  2009;7:68.
Different iron transport systems evolved in Gram-negative bacteria during evolution. Most of the transport systems depend on outer membrane localized TonB-dependent transporters (TBDTs), a periplasma-facing TonB protein and a plasma membrane localized machinery (ExbBD). So far, iron chelators (siderophores), oligosaccharides and polypeptides have been identified as substrates of TBDTs. For iron transport, three uptake systems are defined: the lactoferrin/transferrin binding proteins, the porphyrin-dependent transporters and the siderophore-dependent transporters. However, for cyanobacteria almost nothing is known about possible TonB-dependent uptake systems for iron or other substrates.
We have screened all publicly available eubacterial genomes for sequences representing (putative) TBDTs. Based on sequence similarity, we identified 195 clusters, where elements of one cluster may possibly recognize similar substrates. For Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 we identified 22 genes as putative TBDTs covering almost all known TBDT subclasses. This is a high number of TBDTs compared to other cyanobacteria. The expression of the 22 putative TBDTs individually depends on the presence of iron, copper or nitrogen.
We exemplified on TBDTs the power of CLANS-based classification, which demonstrates its importance for future application in systems biology. In addition, the tentative substrate assignment based on characterized proteins will stimulate the research of TBDTs in different species. For cyanobacteria, the atypical dependence of TBDT gene expression on different nutrition points to a yet unknown regulatory mechanism. In addition, we were able to clarify a hypothesis of the absence of TonB in cyanobacteria by the identification of according sequences.
PMCID: PMC2771747  PMID: 19821963
17.  Alternative Pathway of Metronidazole Activation in Trichomonas vaginalis Hydrogenosomes 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2005;49(12):5033-5036.
Metronidazole and related 5-nitroimidazoles are the only available drugs in the treatment of human urogenital trichomoniasis caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. The drugs are activated to cytotoxic anion radicals by their reduction within the hydrogenosomes. It has been established that electrons required for metronidazole activation are released from pyruvate by the activity of pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase and transferred to the drug by a low-redox-potential carrier, ferredoxin. Here we describe a novel pathway involved in the drug activation within the hydrogenosome. The source of electrons is malate, another major hydrogenosomal substrate, which is oxidatively decarboxylated to pyruvate and CO2 by NAD-dependent malic enzyme. The electrons released during this reaction are transferred from NADH to ferredoxin by NADH dehydrogenase homologous to the catalytic module of mitochondrial complex I, which uses ferredoxin as electron acceptor. Trichomonads acquire high-level metronidazole resistance only after both pyruvate- and malate-dependent pathways of metronidazole activation are eliminated from the hydrogenosomes.
PMCID: PMC1315937  PMID: 16304169
18.  Host Iron Binding Proteins Acting as Niche Indicators for Neisseria meningitidis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5198.
Neisseria meningitidis requires iron, and in the absence of iron alters its gene expression to increase iron acquisition and to make the best use of the iron it has. During different stages of colonization and infection available iron sources differ, particularly the host iron-binding proteins haemoglobin, transferrin, and lactoferrin. This study compared the transcriptional responses of N. meningitidis, when grown in the presence of these iron donors and ferric iron, using microarrays.
Specific transcriptional responses to the different iron sources were observed, including genes that are not part of the response to iron restriction. Comparisons between growth on haemoglobin and either transferrin or lactoferrin identified changes in 124 and 114 genes, respectively, and 33 genes differed between growth on transferrin or lactoferrin. Comparison of gene expression from growth on haemoglobin or ferric iron showed that transcription is also affected by the entry of either haem or ferric iron into the cytoplasm. This is consistent with a model in which N. meningitidis uses the relative availability of host iron donor proteins as niche indicators.
Growth in the presence of haemoglobin is associated with a response likely to be adaptive to survival within the bloodstream, which is supported by serum killing assays that indicate growth on haemoglobin significantly increases survival, and the response to lactoferrin is associated with increased expression of epithelial cell adhesins and oxidative stress response molecules. The transferrin receptor is the most highly transcribed receptor and has the fewest genes specifically induced in its presence, suggesting this is the favoured iron source for the bacterium. Most strikingly, the responses to haemoglobin, which is associated with unrestricted growth, indicates a low iron transcriptional profile, associated with an aggressive phenotype that may be adaptive to access host iron sources but which may also underlie the lethal features of meningococcal septicaemia, when haemoglobin may become a major source of iron.
PMCID: PMC2662411  PMID: 19352437
19.  Iron Modulates Phenotypic Variation and Phosphorylation of P270 in Double-Stranded RNA Virus-Infected Trichomonas vaginalis 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(8):4298-4302.
Trichomonas vaginalis infected with a double-stranded RNA virus undergoes phenotypic variation on the basis of surface versus cytoplasmic expression of the immunogenic protein P270. Examination of batch cultures by flow cytofluorometry with monoclonal antibody (MAb) to P270 yields both fluorescent and nonfluorescent trichomonads. Greater numbers and intensity of fluorescent organisms with surface P270 reactive with MAb were evident in parasites grown in medium depleted of iron. Placement of iron-limited organisms in medium supplemented with iron gave increased numbers of nonfluorescent trichomonads. Purified subpopulations of trichomonads with and without surface P270 obtained by fluorescence-activated cell sorting reverted to nonfluorescent and fluorescent phenotypes when placed in high- and low-iron media, respectively. No similar regulation by iron of P270 was evident among virus-negative T. vaginalis isolates or virus-negative progeny trichomonads derived from virus-infected isolates. Equal amounts of P270 were detectable by MAb on immunoblots of total proteins from identical numbers of parasites grown in low- and high-iron media. Finally, P270 was found to be highly phosphorylated in high-iron parasites. Iron, therefore, plays a role in modulating surface localization of P270 in virus-harboring parasites.
PMCID: PMC96743  PMID: 10417210
20.  The Mycobacterium tuberculosis High-Affinity Iron Importer, IrtA, Contains an FAD-Binding Domain▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(3):861-869.
Iron is an essential nutrient not freely available to microorganisms infecting mammals. To overcome iron deficiency, bacteria have evolved various strategies including the synthesis and secretion of high-affinity iron chelators known as siderophores. The siderophores produced and secreted by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, exomycobactins, compete for iron with host iron-binding proteins and, together with the iron-regulated ABC transporter IrtAB, are required for the survival of M. tuberculosis in iron deficient conditions and for normal replication in macrophages and in mice. This study further characterizes the role of IrtAB in M. tuberculosis iron acquisition. Our results demonstrate a role for IrtAB in iron import and show that the amino terminus domain of IrtA is a flavin-adenine dinucleotide-binding domain essential for iron acquisition. These results suggest a model in which the amino terminus of IrtA functions to couple iron transport and assimilation.
PMCID: PMC2812465  PMID: 19948799
21.  A high-throughput method for the quantification of iron saturation in lactoferrin preparations 
Lactoferrin is considered as a part of the innate immune system that plays a crucial role in preventing bacterial growth, mostly via an iron sequestration mechanism. Recent data show that bovine lactoferrin prevents late-onset sepsis in preterm very low birth weight neonates by serving as an iron chelator for some bacterial strains; thus, it is very important to control the iron saturation level during diet supplementation. An accurate estimation of lactoferrin iron saturation is essential not only because of its clinical applications but also for a wide range of biochemical experiments. A comprehensive method for the quantification of iron saturation in lactoferrin preparations was developed to obtain a calibration curve enabling the determination of iron saturation levels relying exclusively on the defined ratio of absorbances at 280 and 466 nm (A280/466). To achieve this goal, selected techniques such as spectrophotometry, ELISA, and ICP-MS were combined. The ability to obtain samples of lactoferrin with determination of its iron content in a simple and fast way has been proven to be very useful. Furthermore, a similar approach could easily be implemented to facilitate the determination of iron saturation level for other metalloproteins in which metal binding results in the appearance of a distinct band in the visible part of the spectrum.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00216-013-6943-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3656221  PMID: 23604471
Lactoferrin; Iron saturation; Absorption ratio; ICP-MS
22.  Acquisition of iron by Aeromonas salmonicida. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1983;156(2):758-764.
The ability of six typical and three atypical strains of Aeromonas salmonicida to sequester Fe3+ from the high-affinity iron chelators ethylenediaminedihydroxy-phenylacetic acid, lactoferrin, and transferrin was determined. Typical strains were readily able to sequester Fe3+ and used two different mechanisms. One mechanism was inducible and appeared to involve production of a low-molecular-weight soluble siderophore(s). Iron uptake by this mechanism was strongly inhibited by ferricyanide. One virulent strain displayed a second mechanism which was constitutive and required cell contact with Fe3+-lactoferrin or -transferrin. This strain did not produce a soluble siderophore(s) but could utilize the siderophore(s) produced by the other strain. Fe3+ uptake by this stripping mechanism was strongly inhibited by dinitrophenol. Atypical strains displayed a markedly reduced ability to sequester iron from high-affinity chelators, although one of them was able to utilize the siderophores produced by the typical strain. In all strains examined, Fe3+ limitation resulted in the increased synthesis of several high-molecular-weight outer membrane proteins.
PMCID: PMC217893  PMID: 6630151
23.  Yersiniabactin Reduces the Respiratory Oxidative Stress Response of Innate Immune Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8240.
Enterobacteriaceae that contain the High Pathogenicity Island (HPI), which encodes the siderophore yersiniabactin, display increased virulence. This increased virulence may be explained by the increased iron scavenging of the bacteria, which would both enhance bacterial growth and limit the availability of iron to cells of the innate immune system, which require iron to catalyze the Haber-Weiss reaction that produces hydroxyl radicals. In this study, we show that yersiniabactin increases bacterial growth when iron-saturated lactoferrin is the main iron source. This suggests that yersiniabactin provides bacteria with additional iron from saturated lactoferrin during infection. Furthermore, the production of ROS by polymorphonuclear leukocytes, monocytes, and a mouse macrophage cell line is blocked by yersiniabactin, as yersiniabactin reduces iron availability to the cells. Importantly, iron functions as a catalyst during the Haber-Weiss reaction, which generates hydroxyl radicals. While the physiologic role of the Haber-Weiss reaction in the production of hydroxyl radicals has been controversial, the siderophores yersiniabactin, aerobactin, and deferoxamine and the iron-chelator deferiprone also reduce ROS production in activated innate immune cells. This suggests that this reaction takes place under physiological conditions. Of the tested iron chelators, yersiniabactin was the most effective in reducing the ROS production in the tested innate immune cells. The likely decreased bacterial killing by innate immune cells resulting from the reduced production of hydroxyl radicals may explain why the HPI-containing Enterobacteriaceae are more virulent. This model centered on the reduced killing capacity of innate immune cells, which is indirectly caused by yersiniabactin, is in agreement with the observation that the highly pathogenic group of Yersinia is more lethal than the weakly pathogenic and the non-pathogenic group.
PMCID: PMC2795162  PMID: 20041108
24.  Leishmania donovani depletes labile iron pool to exploit iron uptake capacity of macrophage for its intracellular growth 
Cellular Microbiology  2008;11(1):83-94.
Intracellular pathogens employ several strategies for iron acquisition from host macrophages for survival and growth, whereas macrophage resists infection by actively sequestering iron. Here, we show that instead of allowing macrophage to sequester iron, protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani (LD) uses a novel strategy to manipulate iron uptake mechanisms of the host and utilizes the taken up iron for its intracellular growth. To do so, intracellular LD directly scavenges iron from labile iron pool of macrophages. Depleted labile iron pool activates iron sensors iron-regulatory proteins IRP1 and IRP2. IRPs then bind to iron-responsive elements present in the 3′ UTR of iron uptake gene transferrin receptor 1 by a post-transcriptional mRNA stability mechanism. Increased iron-responsive element–IRP interaction and transferrin receptor 1 expressions in spleen-derived macrophages from LD-infected mice confirm that LD employs similar mechanism to acquire iron during infection into mammalian hosts. Increased intracellular LD growth by holo-transferrin supplementation and inhibited growth by iron chelator treatment confirm the significance of this modulated iron uptake pathway of host in favour of the parasite.
PMCID: PMC2774478  PMID: 18823384
25.  Affinities of Treponema pallidum for human lactoferrin and transferrin. 
Genitourinary Medicine  1988;64(6):359-363.
The acquisition of lactoferrin and transferrin by live Treponema pallidum organisms was examined. Saturation binding kinetics were obtained for virulent treponemes with increasing amounts of radioiodinated lactoferrin but not with transferrin. Furthermore, lactoferrin bound up to 100 times more effectively than transferrin. Only unlabelled lactoferrin stoichiometrically completed with iodinated lactoferrin binding. Time course kinetics showed maximum lactoferrin acquisition within the first five minutes at 34 degrees C. Optimum iron accumulation, however, was achieved by T pallidum in 30 minutes at 34 degrees C, and amounts of iron were six times greater than the equivalent amount of lactoferrin bound. Interestingly, iron uptake was also detected in the presence of transferrin, despite the minimal amounts of transferrin acquired by live treponemes. These observations reinforce the possibility that the associations of T pallidum with host molecules, such as plasma proteins, are essential for survival of the parasite within host environments.
PMCID: PMC1194266  PMID: 3066739

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