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J Bacteriol. 2011 Oct;193(19):5359-64. doi: 10.1128/JB.00372-11. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

The iron-responsive regulator irr is required for wild-type expression of the gene encoding the heme transporter BhuA in Brucella abortus 2308.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, East Carolina University School of Medicine, 600 Moye Boulevard, Greenville, NC 27834, USA.


Irr and RirA, rather than Fur, serve as the major iron-responsive regulators in the alphaproteobacteria. With only a few exceptions, however, the relative contributions of these transcriptional regulators to the differential expression of specific iron metabolism genes in Brucella strains are unclear. The gene encoding the outer membrane heme transporter BhuA exhibits maximum expression in Brucella abortus 2308 during growth under iron-deprived conditions, and mutational studies indicate that this pattern of bhuA expression is mediated by the iron-responsive regulator Irr. Specifically, a bhuA-lacZ transcriptional fusion does not produce elevated levels of β-galactosidase in response to iron deprivation in the isogenic irr mutant BEA5, and, unlike the parental strain, B. abortus BEA5 cannot utilize heme as an iron source in vitro and is attenuated in mice. A derivative of the bhuA-lacZ transcriptional fusion lacking the predicted Irr binding site upstream of the bhuA promoter does not produce elevated levels of β-galactosidase in response to iron deprivation in the parental B. abortus 2308 strain, and a direct and specific interaction between a recombinant version of the Brucella Irr and the bhuA promoter region was observed in an electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Despite the fact that it lacks the heme regulatory element linked to the iron-responsive degradation of its counterpart in Bradyrhizobium japonicum, readily detectable levels of Irr were found only in B. abortus 2308 cells by Western blot analysis following growth under iron-deprived conditions.

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