The mechanism of haem-iron acquisition in is poorly understood. Using haemin-agarose in a batch affinity chromatography method, two haemin-binding proteins of 97 and 50 kDa were isolated from total membranes derived from B16B6 grown under iron-deficient but not under iron-replete conditions. No binding proteins were affinity-purified when total membranes underwent limited proteolysis with trypsin, suggesting a haem-protein interaction. When biotinylated human haemoglobin was used as the affinity ligand, proteins of identical molecular mass were isolated. Detection of haemin-binding proteins in a whole cell binding assay demonstrated a surface-exposed location. Competitive binding studies indicated that this haem-protein interaction was specific, because only haemin or human haemoglobin, but not cytochrome c' protoporphyrin IX, iron-loaded human lactoferrin, iron-loaded human transferrin or Fe(NO3)3, could abrogate binding. The presence of similar haemin-binding proteins in a limited survey of clinical meningococcal strains indicated that the expression of the haemin-binding proteins is not serogroup-specific.


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