Logo of iaiPermissionsJournals.ASM.orgJournalIAI ArticleJournal InfoAuthorsReviewers
Infect Immun. 1973 Mar; 7(3): 445–456.
PMCID: PMC422698

Iron-Binding Catechols and Virulence in Escherichia coli


Previous work suggested that virulent bacteria, which can grow rapidly in serum, must possess a specific mechanism for removing iron from its transferrin complex. Two strains of Escherichia coli were examined with this in mind. Strain O141, which showed inoculum-dependent growth in serum and multiplied in the mouse peritoneum, secreted iron-binding catechols into both synthetic medium and serum. One of these compounds has an association constant for iron similar to that of transferrin. Both transferrin and ethylenediamine-di-o-hydroxyphenyl acetic acid (EDDA), which have very high affinities for ferric iron, induced catechol synthesis in growing cultures of strain O111. This organism was inhibited by normal horse serum. Further work showed that traces of specific antibody inhibited catechol synthesis by O111 exposed to EDDA; therefore, the existence of this inhibitory process means that the organism can no longer obtain Fe3+, which all remains bound to transferrin in serum. In vivo, the inhibition of O111 is similar to that produced by serum in vitro. Neither phagocytosis nor killing by complement appeared to be of any significance during the first 4 h of the infections. Significantly, the purified catechol was capable of abolishing bacteriostasis in vivo. Since these results show that the production of iron-binding catechols is essential for rapid bacterial growth both in vitro and in vivo, these compounds should therefore be considered as true virulence factors. Conversely, any interference by the host with the production or activity of these compounds would constitute an important aspect of antibacterial defense.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.7M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Bornside GH, Bouis PJ, Jr, Cohn I., Jr Hemoglobin and Escherichia coli, a lethal intraperitoneal combination. J Bacteriol. 1968 May;95(5):1567–1571. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Brot N, Goodwin J. Regulation of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoylserine synthetase by iron. J Biol Chem. 1968 Feb 10;243(3):510–513. [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Cushnie GH, Rogers HJ. The abolition of the protective effect of Clostridium welchii type A antiserum by ferric iron. Immunology. 1967 Mar;12(3):303–312. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Leigh LC, Rogers HJ. The effect of iron compounds on the virulence of Escherichia coli for guinea-pigs. Immunology. 1968 Oct;15(4):581–588. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Rogers HJ. Bacterial iron metabolism and immunity to Pasteurella septica and Escherichia coli. Nature. 1969 Oct 25;224(5217):380–382. [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Rogers HJ, Leigh L. Iron-binding proteins in milk and resistance to Escherichia coli infection in infants. Br Med J. 1972 Jan 8;1(5792):69–75. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Rogers HJ, Lewin JE. The bacteriostatic effect of serum on Pasteurella septica and its abolition by iron compounds. Immunology. 1971 Mar;20(3):391–406. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bullen JJ, Wilson AB, Cushnie GH, Rogers HJ. The abolition of the protective effect of Pasteurella septica antiserum by iron compounds. Immunology. 1968 Jun;14(6):889–898. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cox GB, Gibson F, Luke RK, Newton NA, O'Brien IG, Rosenberg H. Mutations affecting iron transport in Escherichia coli. J Bacteriol. 1970 Oct;104(1):219–226. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Dvorak HF, Heppel LA. Metallo-enzymes released from Escherichia coli by osmotic shock. II. Evidence that 5'-nucleotidase and cyclic phosphodiesterase are zinc metallo-enzymes. J Biol Chem. 1968 May 25;243(10):2647–2653. [PubMed]
  • Griffiths E. Mechanism of action of specific antiserum on Pasteurella septica. Selective inhibition of net macromolecular synthesis and its reversal by iron compounds. Eur J Biochem. 1971 Nov 11;23(1):69–76. [PubMed]
  • Howard CJ, Glynn AA. The virulence for mice of strains of Escherichia coli related to the effects of K antigens on their resistance to phagocytosis and killing by complement. Immunology. 1971 May;20(5):767–777. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Kochan I, Pellis NR, Golden CA. Mechanism of Tuberculostasis in Mammalian Serum III. Neutralization of Serum Tuberculostasis by Mycobactin. Infect Immun. 1971 Apr;3(4):553–558. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lankford CE, Walker JR, Reeves JB, Nabbut NH, Byers BR, Jones RJ. Inoculum-dependent division lag of Bacillus cultures and its relation to an endogenous factor(s) ("schizokinen"). J Bacteriol. 1966 Mar;91(3):1070–1079. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • MARCUS S, ESPLIN DW, DONALDSON DM. Lack of bactericidal effect of mouse serum on a number of common microorganisms. Science. 1954 Jun 18;119(3103):877–877. [PubMed]
  • Medearis DN, Jr, Camitta BM, Heath EC. Cell wall composition and virulence in Escherichia coli. J Exp Med. 1968 Sep 1;128(3):399–414. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Medearis DN, Jr, Kenny JF. Observations concerning the pathogenesis of E. coli infections in mice. J Immunol. 1968 Sep;101(3):534–540. [PubMed]
  • Medhurst FA, Glynn AA. In vivo bactericidal activity of mouse complement against Escherichia coli. Br J Exp Pathol. 1970 Oct;51(5):498–506. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • O'Brien IG, Cox GB, Gibson F. 2,3-dihydroxy-N-benzoylserine: chemical synthesis and comparison with the natural product. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1969 Apr 1;177(2):321–328. [PubMed]
  • O'Brien IG, Cox GB, Gibson F. Biologically active compounds containing 2,3-dihydroxybenzoic acid and serine formed by Escherichia coli. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1970 Mar 24;201(3):453–460. [PubMed]
  • O'Brien IG, Gibson F. The structure of enterochelin and related 2,3-dihydroxy-N-benzoylserine conjugates from Escherichia coli. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1970 Aug 14;215(2):393–402. [PubMed]
  • Pollack JR, Neilands JB. Enterobactin, an iron transport compound from Salmonella typhimurium. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1970 Mar 12;38(5):989–992. [PubMed]
  • ROANTREE RJ, COLLIS LR. Effect of the peritoneal fluid of the guinea pig on strains of enteric bacilli. Nature. 1960 Sep 17;187:1045–1046. [PubMed]
  • Rogers HJ, Bullen JJ, Cushnie GH. Iron compounds and resistance to infection. Further experiments with Clostridium welchii type A in vivo and in vitro. Immunology. 1970 Oct;19(4):521–538. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • ROWLEY D. The virulence of strains of Bacterium coli for mice. Br J Exp Pathol. 1954 Dec;35(6):528–538. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Snow GA. Mycobactins: iron-chelating growth factors from mycobacteria. Bacteriol Rev. 1970 Jun;34(2):99–125. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • STEWARD JP, ROANTREE RJ. Effect of mouse peritoneal fluid on strains of enteric bacilli. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1961 Dec;108:654–658. [PubMed]
  • Sword CP. Mechanisms of pathogenesis in Listeria monocytogenes infection. I. Influence of iron. J Bacteriol. 1966 Sep;92(3):536–542. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Wilkins TD, Lankford CE. Production by Salmonella typhimurium of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoylserine, and its stimulation of growth in human serum. J Infect Dis. 1970 Feb;121(2):129–136. [PubMed]
  • Young IG, Gibson F. Regulation of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoic acid in Aerobacter aerogenes and Escherichia coli. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1969 May 6;177(3):401–411. [PubMed]

Articles from Infection and Immunity are provided here courtesy of American Society for Microbiology (ASM)


Save items

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...