A bacterial iron exporter for maintenance of iron homeostasis [Microbiology]

April 29th, 2014 by Sankari, S., O'Brian, M. R.

Nutritional iron acquisition by bacteria is well-described, but almost nothing is known about bacterial iron export even though it is likely to be an important homeostatic mechanism. Here, we show that Bradyrhizobium japonicum MbfA (Blr7895) is an inner membrane protein expressed in cells specifically under high iron conditions. MbfA contains an N-terminal ferritin-like domain (FLD) and a C-terminal domain homologous to the eukaryotic vacuolar membrane Fe2+/Mn2+ transporter CCC1. An mbfA mutant is severely defective in iron export activity, contains over 2-fold more intracellular iron than the parent strain, and displays an aberrant iron-dependent gene expression phenotype. B. japonicum is highly resistant to iron and H2O2 stresses, and MbfA contributes substantially to this as determined by phenotypes of the mbfA mutant strain. The N-terminal FLD was localized to the cytoplasmic side of the inner membrane. Substitution mutations in the putative iron-binding amino acid residues E20A and E107A within the N-terminal FLD abrogate iron export activity and stress response function. Purified soluble FLD oxidizes ferrous iron (Fe2+) to incorporate ferric iron (Fe3+) in a 2:1 iron to protein ratio, which does not occur in the E20A/E107A mutant. The FLD fragment is a dimer in solution, implying that the MbfA exporter functions as a dimer. MbfA belongs to a protein family found in numerous prokaryotic genera. The findings strongly suggest that iron export plays an important role in bacterial iron homeostasis.