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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56529. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056529. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Staphylococcus aureus FepA and FepB proteins drive heme iron utilization in Escherichia coli.

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Unité des Membranes Bactériennes, Département de Microbiologie, Institut Pasteur, CNRS ERL3526, Paris, France.


EfeUOB-like tripartite systems are widespread in bacteria and in many cases they are encoded by genes organized into iron-regulated operons. They consist of: EfeU, a protein similar to the yeast iron permease Ftrp1; EfeO, an extracytoplasmic protein of unknown function and EfeB, also an extracytoplasmic protein with heme peroxidase activity, belonging to the DyP family. Many bacterial EfeUOB systems have been implicated in iron uptake, but a prefential iron source remains undetermined. Nevertheless, in the case of Escherichia coli, the EfeUOB system has been shown to recognize heme and to allow extracytoplasmic heme iron extraction via a deferrochelation reaction. Given the high level of sequence conservations between EfeUOB orthologs, we hypothesized that heme might be the physiological iron substrate for the other orthologous systems. To test this hypothesis, we undertook characterization of the Staphylococcus aureus FepABC system. Results presented here indicate: i) that the S. aureus FepB protein binds both heme and PPIX with high affinity, like EfeB, the E. coli ortholog; ii) that it has low peroxidase activity, comparable to that of EfeB; iii) that both FepA and FepB drive heme iron utilization, and both are required for this activity and iv) that the E. coli FepA ortholog (EfeO) cannot replace FepA in FepB-driven iron release from heme indicating protein specificity in these activities. Our results show that the function in heme iron extraction is conserved in the two orthologous systems.

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