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J Biol Chem. 2002 Aug 9;277(32):28380-3. Epub 2002 Jun 27.

A third bacterial system for the assembly of iron-sulfur clusters with homologs in archaea and plastids.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Osaka 560-0043, Japan.


The assembly of iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters is mediated by complex machinery. In several proteobacteria, this process involves ISC (Fe-S cluster assembly) machinery composed of at least six components also conserved in mitochondria from lower to higher eukaryotes. In nitrogen-fixing bacteria, another system, termed NIF (nitrogen fixation), is required for the maturation of nitrogenase. Here we report the identification of a third system, designated the SUF machinery, the components of which are encoded in Escherichia coli by an unassigned operon, sufABCDSE. We have analyzed spontaneous pseudorevertants isolated from a mutant strain lacking all the components of the ISC machinery. The suppressor mutations in the revertants have been localized to the regulatory region of the suf operon; overexpression of this operon restores the growth phenotypes and activity of Fe-S proteins in mutant cells lacking ISC. Disruption of the suf operon alone does not cause any major defects, but synthetic lethality was observed when both the isc and suf operons were inactivated. These results indicate that proteins encoded by the suf operon participate in the ISC-independent minor pathway for the assembly of Fe-S clusters. The genes homologous to sufBC are present in a wide range of bacteria, Archaea, and plastids, suggesting that this type of system is almost ubiquitous in nature.

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