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Met Ions Life Sci. 2013;12:279-332. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-5561-1_9.

Heme uptake and metabolism in bacteria.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Kansas, Multidisciplinary Research Building, 2030 Becker Dr., Lawrence, KS, 66047, USA,


All but a few bacterial species have an absolute need for heme, and most are able to synthesize it via a pathway that is highly conserved among all life domains. Because heme is a rich source for iron, many pathogenic bacteria have also evolved processes for sequestering heme from their hosts. The heme biosynthesis pathways are well understood at the genetic and structural biology levels. In comparison, much less is known about the heme acquisition, trafficking, and degradation processes in bacteria. Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria have evolved similar strategies but different tactics for importing and degrading heme, likely as a consequence of their different cellular architectures. The differences are manifested in distinct structures for molecules that perform similar functions. Consequently, the aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the structural biology of proteins and protein-protein interactions that enable Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria to sequester heme from the extracellular milieu, import it to the cytosol, and degrade it to mine iron.

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