Monday, July 13, 2009

Iron trafficking as an antimicrobial target

The August issue of BioMetals contains proceedings of Symposium on Siderophores held at the ACS Meeting in Philadelphia, 2008. This mini-review caught my attention.
Readers of Biometals are aware of the special challenges posed by the need to acquire iron: an absolutely essential but highly insoluble metal in most biota, and a jealously protected one inside the human body. Microbial systems for Fe uptake and trafficking are consequently highly developed and fundamentally interesting. Limiting Fe under laboratory conditions can be detrimental or lethal, offering a means for limiting microbial growth. The potential for medicinally impeding Fe metabolism is a commonly, if sometimes uncritically, cited justification for in-depth biological studies of Fe acquisition. In fact, derailing the Fe supply train, while plausible as an antimicrobial strategy, is still largely untested in practice.
Since the iron acquisition mechanisms in microbes and higher eukaryotes are fundamentally different, it is possible to deprive the pathogen from iron without harming the host — for instance, by inhibiting the siderophore biosynthesis.

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