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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2002 Jun;66(2):223-49.

Genetics and assembly line enzymology of siderophore biosynthesis in bacteria.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


The regulatory logic of siderophore biosynthetic genes in bacteria involves the universal repressor Fur, which acts together with iron as a negative regulator. However in other bacteria, in addition to the Fur-mediated mechanism of regulation, there is a concurrent positive regulation of iron transport and siderophore biosynthetic genes that occurs under conditions of iron deprivation. Despite these regulatory differences the mechanisms of siderophore biosynthesis follow the same fundamental enzymatic logic, which involves a series of elongating acyl-S-enzyme intermediates on multimodular protein assembly lines: nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS). A substantial variety of siderophore structures are produced from similar NRPS assembly lines, and variation can come in the choice of the phenolic acid selected as the N-cap, the tailoring of amino acid residues during chain elongation, the mode of chain termination, and the nature of the capturing nucleophile of the siderophore acyl chain being released. Of course the specific parts that get assembled in a given bacterium may reflect a combination of the inventory of biosynthetic and tailoring gene clusters available. This modular assembly logic can account for all known siderophores. The ability to mix and match domains within modules and to swap modules themselves is likely to be an ongoing process in combinatorial biosynthesis. NRPS evolution will try out new combinations of chain initiation, elongation and tailoring, and termination steps, possibly by genetic exchange with other microorganisms and/or within the same bacterium, to create new variants of iron-chelating siderophores that can fit a particular niche for the producer bacterium.

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