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J Bacteriol. 2013 Jan;195(1):46-55. doi: 10.1128/JB.01121-12. Epub 2012 Oct 26.

Solution structure of Escherichia coli FeoA and its potential role in bacterial ferrous iron transport.

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Biochemistry Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Iron is an indispensable nutrient for most organisms. Ferric iron (Fe(3+)) predominates under aerobic conditions, while during oxygen limitation ferrous (Fe(2+)) iron is usually present. The Feo system is a bacterial ferrous iron transport system first discovered in Escherichia coli K-12. It consists of three genes, feoA, feoB, and feoC (yhgG). FeoB is thought to be the main transmembrane transporter while FeoC is considered to be a transcriptional regulator. Using multidimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, we have determined the solution structure of E. coli FeoA. The structure of FeoA reveals a Src-homology 3 (SH3)-like fold. The structure is composed of a β-barrel with two α-helices where one helix is positioned over the barrel. In comparison to the standard eukaryotic SH3 fold, FeoA has two additional α-helices. FeoA was further characterized by heteronuclear NMR dynamics measurements, which suggest that it is a monomeric, stable globular protein. Model-free analysis of the NMR relaxation results indicates that a slow conformational dynamic process is occurring in β-strand 4 that may be important for function. (31)P NMR-based GTPase activity measurements with the N-terminal domain of FeoB (NFeoB) indicate a higher GTP hydrolysis rate in the presence of potassium than with sodium. Further enzymatic assays with NFeoB suggest that FeoA may not act as a GTPase-activating protein as previously proposed. These findings, together with bioinformatics and structural analyses, suggest that FeoA may have a different role, possibly interacting with the cytoplasmic domain of the highly conserved core portion of the FeoB transmembrane region.

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