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Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2004;84(1-2):110-30.

Iron, mycobacteria and tuberculosis.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK.


The role of iron in the growth and metabolism of M. tuberculosis and other mycobacteria is discussed in relation to the acquisiton of iron from host sources, such as transferrin, lactoferrin and ferritin, and its subsequent assimilation and utilization by the bacteria. Key components involved in the acquisition of iron (as ferric ion) and its initial transport into the mycobacterial cell are extracellular iron binding agents (siderophores) which, in pathogenic mycobacteria, are the carboxymycobactins and, in saprophytic mycobacteria, are the exochelins. In both cases, iron may be transferred to an intra-envelope, short-term storage molecule, mycobactin. For transport across the cell membrane, a reductase is used which converts FeIII-mycobactin to the FeII form. The ferrous ion, possibly complexed with salicylic acid, is then shuttled across the membrane either for direct incorporation into various porphyrins and apoproteins or, for storage of iron within the bacterial cytoplasm, bacterioferritin. The overall process of iron acquisition and its utilization is under very genetic tight control. The importance of iron in the virulence of mycobacteria is discussed in relationship to the development of tuberculosis. The management of dietary iron can therefore be influential in aiding the outcome of this disease. The role of the old anti-TB compound, p-aminosalicylate (PAS), is discussed in its action as an inhibitor of iron assimilation, together with the prospects of being able to synthesize further selective inhibitors of iron metabolism that may be useful as future chemotherapeutic agents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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