The importance of siderophores in iron nutrition of heterotrophic marine bacteria

Granger, Julie, Neil M. Price

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3), 1999, 541-555 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3.0541

ABSTRACT: Recent studies demonstrate that dissolved iron in seawater is bound to strong organic complexes that have stability constants comparable to those of microbial iron chelates. We examined iron acquisition by seven strains of heterotrophic marine bacteria from a number of siderophore-iron complexes, including desferrioxamine B (DFB) and marine siderophores partially purified from iron-limited cultures. Hydroxamate siderophores were detected in the supernatants of four strains, one of which also produced a catechol. All strains transported iron bound to siderophores regardless of whether or not they produced their own, and the majority took up iron bound to DFB. Uptake rates of Fe siderophores were similar among iron-limited strains and among ligands. Transport of FeDFB by strain Neptune was enhanced 20 times by iron limitation, whereas uptake of unchelated iron (Fe') did not saturate at the highest concentration tested and was not regulated by the iron nutritional status of the cells. The half-saturation constant for uptake of FeDFB by Neptune was 15 nM, the lowest reported for an Fe siderophore in any microor ganism. Iron uptake by the catechol-producing strain, LMG1, differed markedly in two respects from the other strains: LMG1 could not take up iron bound to DFB; furthermore, transport of Fe' by iron-limited LMG1 was 10 times faster than the other strains and was upregulated 46 times compared to Fe-sufficient cells. Experimental evidence suggests that iron transport by LMG1 may be mediated by surface-associated catechol siderophores that scavenge inorganic ferric species as well as iron bound to weaker complexes, such as EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). The combined results of the study highlight the importance of siderophores in iron transport by heterotrophic marine bacteria and suggest, by inference, that bacteria may rely on siderophores to acquire iron in situ.

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