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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Nov;34(3):399-413.

The response of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to iron: genetics, biochemistry and virulence.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


During the past decade significant progress has been made towards identifying some of the schemes that Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses to obtain iron and towards cataloguing and characterizing many of the genes and gene products that are likely to play a role in these processes. This review will largely recount what we have learned in the past few years about how P. aeruginosa regulates its acquisition, intake and, to some extent, trafficking of iron, and the role of iron acquisition systems in the virulence of this remarkable opportunistic pathogen. More specifically, the genetics, biochemistry and biology of an essential regulator (Ferric uptake regulator - Fur) and a Fur-regulated alternative sigma factor (PvdS), which are central to these processes, will be discussed. These regulatory proteins directly or indirectly regulate a substantial number of other genes encoding proteins with remarkably diverse functions. These genes include: (i) other regulatory genes, (ii) genes involved in basic metabolic processes (e.g. Krebs cycle), (iii) genes required to survive oxidative stress (e.g. superoxide dismutase), (iv) genes necessary for scavenging iron (e.g. siderophores and their cognate receptors) or genes that contribute to the virulence (e.g. exotoxin A) of this opportunistic pathogen. Despite this recent expansion of knowledge about the response of P. aeruginosa to iron, many significant biological issues surrounding iron acquisition still need to be addressed. Virtually nothing is known about which of the distinct iron acquisition mechanisms P. aeruginosa brings to bear on these questions outside the laboratory, whether it be in soil, in a pipeline, on plants or in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

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