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An Intracellular Iron Chelator Pleiotropically Suppresses Enzymatic and Growth Defects of Superoxide Dismutase-Deficient Escherichia coli

American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
Publication Date
  • Biology


Mutants of Escherichia coli that lack cytoplasmic superoxide dismutase (SOD) exhibit auxotrophies for sulfur-containing, branched-chain, and aromatic amino acids and cannot catabolize nonfermentable carbon sources. A secondary-site mutation substantially relieved all of these growth defects. The requirement for fermentable carbon and the branched-chain auxotrophy occur because superoxide (O2−) leaches iron from the [4Fe-4S] clusters of a family of dehydratases, thereby inactivating them; the suppression of these phenotypes was mediated by the restoration of activity to these dehydratases, evidently without changing the intracellular concentration of O2−. Cloning, complementation, and sequence analysis identified the suppressor mutation to be in dapD, which encodes tetrahydrodipicolinate succinylase, an enzyme involved in diaminopimelate and lysine biosynthesis. A block in dapB, which encodes dihydrodipicolinate reductase in the same pathway, conferred similar protection. Genetic analysis indicated that the protection stems from the intracellular accumulation of tetrahydro- or dihydrodipicolinate. Heterologous expression in the SOD mutants of the dipicolinate synthase of Bacillus subtilis generated dipicolinate and similarly protected them. Dipicolinates are excellent iron chelators, and their accumulation in the cell triggered derepression of the Fur regulon and a large increase in the intracellular pool of free iron, presumably as a dipicolinate chelate. A fur mutation only partially relieved the auxotrophies, indicating that Fur derepression assists but is not sufficient for suppression. It seems plausible that the abundant internal iron permits efficient reactivation of superoxide-damaged iron-sulfur clusters. This result provides circumstantial evidence that the sulfur and aromatic auxotrophies of SOD mutants are also directly or indirectly linked to iron metabolism.


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