Iron transport in Escherichia coli K-12 - 2,3-Dihydroxybenzoate-promoted iron uptake

Robert E.W. Hancock, Klaus Hantke, Volkmar Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The study of iron uptake promoted by 2,3-dihydroxybenzoate (DHB) into Escherichia coli K-12 aroB mutants allowed some dissection of outer and cytoplasmic membrane functions. These strains are unable to produce the iron-transporting chelate enterochelin, unless fed with a precursor such as DHB. When added to the medium, enterochelin and its natural breakdown products, the linear dimer and trimer of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoylserine (DBS), efficiently transported iron via the feuB, tonB and fep gene products. Thus mutants in these genes were defective in transport of the above chelates. However, feuB and tonB mutants were able to take up iron when DHB was added to the medium. Thus DHB-promoted iron uptake bypassed two functions required for the transport of ferric-enterochelin from the medium. One of these functions, feuB, has been shown to be an outer membrane protein. In contrast to three other iron transport systems including ferric-enterochelin uptake, DHB-promoted iron uptake was little affected by the uncoupler 2,4-dinitrophenol. Dissipation of the energized state of the cytoplasmic membrane apparently only affects those iron transport systems which require an outer membrane protein. Since DHB-promoted iron uptake bypasses the feuB outer membrane protein and the tonB function, it is concluded that, in ferricenterochelin transport, the tonB gene may function in coupling the energized state of the cytoplasmic membrane to the protein-dependent outer membrane permeability. DHB-promoted iron uptake required the synthesis and enzymatic breakdown of enterochelin as judged by the effects of the entF and fesB mutations. A fep mutant was not only deficient in the transport of the ferric chelates of enterochelin and its breakdown products, but was also deficient in DHB-promoted iron uptake. A scheme is presented in which iron diffuses as DHB-complex through the outer membrane, and is subsequently captured by enterochelin or DBS dimer or trimer and translocated across the cytoplasmic membrane.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Sept 1977
Externally publishedYes


  • 2,3-dihydroxybenzoate
  • Enterochelin
  • Escherichia coli K-12
  • Iron transport
  • tonB gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

Cite this