The iron uptake mechanisms of enteropathogenic (EPEC) were examined and compared with those of control strains. The incidence of aerobactin production was similar (39% and 37% respectively) in the two groups. The quantities of enterochelin produced by aerobactin-negative EPEC and control strains were similar, as were the quantities of enterochelin produced by aerobactin-positive EPEC and control strains. The ability to use haem or haemoglobin as an iron source in an iron-restricted environment was found in 80•4% and 60•8% of EPEC strains respectively, and in 76•6% and 56•6% of control strains. The ability of strains to use these compounds was not related to the production of enterochelin or aerobactin or to the production of haemolysins, and may be an important characteristic of bowel organisms. When growing in an iron-limited environment, the iron contained in haemoglobin was used in preference to ovotransferrin-bound iron. During periods of haemoglobin-stimulated growth, the enterochelin uptake system was shown to be fully expressed and may be involved in transport of haemoglobin-derived iron into the cell. Uptake of ovotransferrin-bound iron took place immediately upon exhaustion of haemoglobin-derived iron. The ability to use iron derived from haem compounds represents an alternative iron uptake mechanism for organisms growing in an iron-limited environment and allows greater flexibility during growth .


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