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Research Abstracts Online
January 2010 - March 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Microbiology

PI: Sandra K. Armstrong

Iron Transport in Bordetella

Bacterial growth in vivo is the primary requirement for pathogenicity, and growth is limited by nutrient availability, which can change during the course of an infection. Iron that is essential for virtually all bacterial growth is actively withheld by mammalian defense mechanisms. Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella bronchiseptica are highly genetically related bacterial species that cause respiratory infections in mammals. B. pertussis is the agent that colonizes the human respiratory epithelium to cause whooping cough, or pertussis, and B. bronchiseptica infects a wide range of nonhuman mammals. For iron retrieval, B. pertussis and B. bronchiseptica produce and utilize the siderophore alcaligin and can also use the enterobactin siderophore and host heme compounds. Under iron starvation conditions in vitro and in vivo, each system is positively regulated by the action of a distinct transcriptional regulator. These regulators are activated by the cognate iron source acting as the inducer, allowing maximal expression of the genes required for its utilization.

Previous studies showed that these iron acquisition systems are important for B. pertussis infection. They are differentially expressed in a host, and their expression patterns reflect changes in iron source availability during infection. The alcaligin system is important for B. pertussis growth during the entire infection, enterobactin utilization is most important to successful early infection, and the heme system is required only at later stages of infection. This group’s long-term interests are to further their understanding of nutrient acquisition as a key virulence determinant in Bordetella species. This project is focused on extending our knowledge of Bordetella iron assimilation to characterize newly identified iron transport systems and determine their importance to growth in the host.

Group Member

Timothy J. Brickman, Research Associate