The ability of typical and atypical strains of to utilize non-haem sources of protein-bound iron was evaluated. (i) In a plate bioassay, the suppression of growth imposed on typical and atypical by addition of the high-affinity iron chelator ethylenediamine-di(o-hydroxyphenylacetic acid) (EDDA) to the growth medium was reversed by the addition of 30% or 90% iron-saturated bovine or human transferrin (Tf) or lactoferrin (Lf) to the growth medium. (ii) The mechanism of obtaining iron from Tf was investigated by the addition of bovine Tf contained within a dialysis bag. The reversal of iron-restricted growth suppression differed between the strains in that the atypical strains were unable to utilize Tf contained within a dialysis bag while the typical strains were able to do so. This suggested a siderophore-mediated uptake of iron from Tf by the typical strains, which are known to produce siderophores while atypical strains do not. (iii) A solid-phase binding assay using horseradish-peroxidase-conjugated or biotinylated Tf or Lf failed to detect Tf/Lf-binding activity using whole typical or atypical cells. (iv) When atypical extracellular products (ECP) plus bovine Tf or salmon serum were enclosed in a dialysis bag, diffusible products were released which could reverse the EDDA-imposed growth suppression of an atypical strain. This reversal was negated by inhibition of the ECP metalloprotease with EDTA. (v) Purified 70 kDa serine protease of a typical strain was able to digest bovine Tf to low molecular mass fragments as observed in SDS-PAGE. These results indicate that typical and atypical strains of differ in their mechanism of utilization of non-haem protein-bound sources of iron. Typical strains utilize Tf via a siderophore-mediated mechanism and are also able to digest Tf with the extracellular serine protease. Atypical strains utilize Tf by a siderophore-independent mechanism probably involving the proteolytic degradation of Tf by the extracellular metalloprotease.


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