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J Bacteriol. 2004 May;186(10):2996-3005.

Identification of rhtX and fptX, novel genes encoding proteins that show homology and function in the utilization of the siderophores rhizobactin 1021 by Sinorhizobium meliloti and pyochelin by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respectively.

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School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland.


Rhizobactin 1021 is a hydroxymate siderophore produced by the soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti 2011. A regulon comprising rhtA, encoding the outer membrane receptor protein for the ferrisiderophore; the biosynthesis operon rhbABCDEF; and rhrA, the Ara-C-like regulator of the receptor and biosynthesis genes has been previously described. We report the discovery of a gene, located upstream of rhbA and named rhtX (for "rhizobactin transport"), which is required, in addition to rhtA, to confer the ability to utilize rhizobactin 1021 on a strain of S. meliloti that does not naturally utilize the siderophore. Rhizobactin 1021 is structurally similar to aerobactin, which is transported in Escherichia coli via the IutA outer membrane receptor and the FhuCDB inner membrane transport system. E. coli expressing iutA and fhuCDB was found to also transport rhizobactin 1021. We demonstrated that RhtX alone could substitute for FhuCDB to transport rhizobactin 1021 in E. coli. RhtX shows similarity to a number of uncharacterized proteins which are encoded proximal to genes that are either known to be or predicted to be involved in iron acquisition. Among these is PA4218 of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is located close to the gene cluster that functions in pyochelin biosynthesis and outer membrane transport. PA4218 was mutated by allelic replacement, and the mutant was found to have a pyochelin utilization-defective phenotype. It is proposed that PA4218 be named fptX (for "ferripyochelin transport"). RhtX and FptX appear to be members of a novel family of permeases that function as single-subunit transporters of siderophores.

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