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J Bacteriol. 2011 Sep;193(18):4798-812. doi: 10.1128/JB.05136-11. Epub 2011 Jul 8.

Transcriptional profiling of the iron starvation response in Bordetella pertussis provides new insights into siderophore utilization and virulence gene expression.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Serological studies of patients with pertussis and the identification of antigenic Bordetella pertussis proteins support the hypothesis that B. pertussis perceives an iron starvation cue and expresses multiple iron source utilization systems in its natural human host environment. Furthermore, previous studies using a murine respiratory tract infection model showed that several of these B. pertussis iron systems are required for colonization and persistence and are differentially expressed over the course of infection. The present study examined genome-wide changes in B. pertussis gene transcript abundance in response to iron starvation in vitro. In addition to known iron source utilization genes, we identified a previously uncharacterized iron-repressed cytoplasmic membrane transporter system, fbpABC, that is required for the utilization of multiple structurally distinct siderophores including alcaligin, enterobactin, ferrichrome, and desferrioxamine B. Expression of type III secretion system genes was also found to be upregulated during iron starvation in both B. pertussis strain Tohama I and Bordetella bronchiseptica strain RB50. In a survey of type III secretion system protein production by an assortment of B. pertussis laboratory-adapted and low-passage clinical isolate strains, iron limitation increased the production and secretion of the type III secretion system-specific translocation apparatus tip protein Bsp22 in all Bvg-proficient strains. These results indicate that iron starvation in the infected host is an important environmental cue influencing not only Bordetella iron transport gene expression but also the expression of other important virulence-associated genes.

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