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J Bacteriol. 2002 Sep;184(17):4846-56.

Identification of a DtxR-regulated operon that is essential for siderophore-dependent iron uptake in Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 4200 East Ninth Avenue, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


The diphtheria toxin repressor (DtxR) uses Fe(2+) as a corepressor and inhibits transcription from iron-regulated promoters (IRPs) in Corynebacterium diphtheriae. A new IRP, designated IRP6, was cloned from C. diphtheriae by a SELEX-like procedure. DtxR bound to IRP6 in vitro only in the presence of appropriate divalent metal ions, and repression of IRP6 by DtxR in an Escherichia coli system was iron dependent. The open reading frames (ORFs) downstream from IRP6 and previously described promoter IRP1 were found to encode proteins homologous to components of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transport systems involved in high-affinity iron uptake in other bacteria. IRP1 and IRP6 were repressed under high-iron conditions in wild-type C. diphtheriae C7(beta), but they were expressed constitutively in C7(beta) mutant strains HC1, HC3, HC4, and HC5, which were shown previously to be defective in corynebactin-dependent iron uptake. A clone of the wild-type irp6 operon (pCM6ABC) complemented the constitutive corynebactin production phenotype of HC1, HC4, and HC5 but not of HC3, whereas a clone of the wild-type irp1 operon failed to complement any of these strains. Complementation by subclones of pCM6ABC demonstrated that mutant alleles of irp6A, irp6C, and irp6B were responsible for the phenotypes of HC1, HC4, and HC5, respectively. The irp6A allele in HC1 and the irp6B allele in HC5 encoded single amino acid substitutions in their predicted protein products, and the irp6C allele in HC4 caused premature chain termination of its predicted protein product. Strain HC3 was found to have a chain-terminating mutation in dtxR in addition to a missense mutation in its irp6B allele. These findings demonstrated that the irp6 operon in C. diphtheriae encodes a putative ABC transporter, that specific mutant alleles of irp6A, irp6B, and irp6C are associated with defects in corynebactin-dependent iron uptake, and that complementation of these mutant alleles restores repression of corynebactin production under high-iron growth conditions, most likely as a consequence of restoring siderophore-dependent iron uptake mediated by the irp6 operon.

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