Bacterial iron detoxification at the molecular level

Justin M. Bradley, Dimitri A. Svistunenko, Michael T. Wilson, Andrew M. Hemmings, Geoffrey R. Moore, Nick E Le Brun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
95 Downloads (Pure)


Iron is an essential micronutrient, and, in the case of bacteria, its availability is commonly a growth-limiting factor. However, correct functioning of cells requires that the labile pool of chelatable “free” iron be tightly regulated. Correct metalation of proteins requiring iron as a cofactor demands that such a readily accessible source of iron exist, but overaccumulation results in an oxidative burden that, if unchecked, would lead to cell death. The toxicity of iron stems from its potential to catalyze formation of reactive oxygen species that, in addition to causing damage to biological molecules, can also lead to the formation of reactive nitrogen species. To avoid iron-mediated oxidative stress, bacteria utilize iron-dependent global regulators to sense the iron status of the cell and regulate the expression of proteins involved in the acquisition, storage, and efflux of iron accordingly. Here, we survey the current understanding of the structure and mechanism of the important members of each of these classes of protein. Diversity in the details of iron homeostasis mechanisms reflect the differing nutritional stresses resulting from the wide variety of ecological niches that bacteria inhabit. However, in this review, we seek to highlight the similarities of iron homeostasis between different bacteria, while acknowledging important variations. In this way, we hope to illustrate how bacteria have evolved common approaches to overcome the dual problems of the insolubility and potential toxicity of iron.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17602-17623
Number of pages22
JournalThe Journal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number51
Early online date12 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020

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