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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Mar;47(6):1485-94.

Mechanisms of iron regulation in mycobacteria: role in physiology and virulence.

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TB Center, Public Health Research Institute at the International Center for Public Health, 225 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07103-3535, USA.


The role of iron in mycobacteria as in other bacteria goes beyond the need for this essential cofactor. Limitation of this metal triggers an extensive response aimed at increasing iron acquisition while coping with iron deficiency. In contrast, iron-rich environments prompt these prokaryotes to induce synthesis of iron storage molecules and to increase mechanisms of protection against iron-mediated oxidative damage. The response to changes in iron availability is strictly regulated in order to maintain sufficient but not excessive and potentially toxic levels of iron in the cell. This response is also linked to other important processes such as protection against oxidative stress and virulence. In bacteria, iron metabolism is regulated by controlling transcription of genes involved in iron uptake, transport and storage. In mycobacteria, this role is fulfilled by the iron-dependent regulator IdeR. IdeR is an essential protein in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human tuberculosis. It functions as a repressor of iron acquisition genes, but is also an activator of iron storage genes and a positive regulator of oxidative stress responses.

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