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J Bacteriol. 1992 May;174(9):2993-3003.

High-affinity iron uptake systems present in Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora include the hydroxamate siderophore aerobactin.

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  • 1Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, Corvallis, Oregon.


The phytopathogenic bacterium Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora W3C105 produced the hydroxamate siderophore aerobactin under iron-limiting conditions. A survey of 22 diverse strains of E. carotovora revealed that strain W3C105 alone produced aerobactin. The ferric-aerobactin receptor of strain W3C105 was an 80-kDa protein, identified by immunoblots of Sarkosyl-soluble proteins obtained from E. carotovora cells grown in iron-depleted medium and probed with antiserum raised against the 74-kDa ferric-aerobactin receptor encoded by the pColV-K30 plasmid of Escherichia coli. Genes determining aerobactin biosynthesis and uptake were localized to an 11.3-kb EcoRI-HindIII chromosomal fragment of strain W3C105. A 10-kb subclone of the fragment conferred on E. coli DH5 alpha both aerobactin biosynthesis and uptake, determined by cloacin DF13 sensitivity, the presence of the 80-kDa receptor protein, and iron-independent growth of E. coli clones. The aerobactin biosynthesis genes of E. carotovora W3C105 hybridized to those of the pColV-K30 plasmid of E. coli, but the restriction patterns of the aerobactin regions of E. coli and E. carotovora differed. Although the aerobactin region of enteric bacteria is commonly flanked by IS1-like sequences, IS1 sequences were not detected in the genomic DNA or the cloned aerobactin region of E. carotovora. E. coli DH5 alpha cells harboring cloned aerobactin biosynthesis genes from E. carotovora W3C105 produced greater quantities of aerobactin and the 80-kDa ferric-aerobactin receptor when grown in iron-limited than in iron-replete medium. Strain W3C105 grew on an iron-limited medium, whereas derivatives that lacked a functional aerobactin iron acquisition system did not grow on the medium. These results provide evidence for the occurrence and heterogeneity of aerobactin as a high-affinity iron uptake system of both clinical and phytopathogenic species of the Enterobacteriaceae. Although future studies may reveal a role for aerobactin in the virulence or ecology of strain W3C105, a functional aerobactin iron acquisition system is not necessary for the pathogenicity of E. carotovora.

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