Self-poisoning of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by interrupting siderophore recycling

Academic Article


  • Siderophores are small iron-binding molecules secreted by bacteria to scavenge iron. Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the etiologic agent of tuberculosis, produces the siderophores mycobactin and carboxymycobactin. Complexes of the mycobacterial membrane proteins MmpS4 and MmpS5 with the transporters MmpL4 and MmpL5 are required for siderophore export and virulence in Mtb. Here we show that, surprisingly, mycobactin or carboxymycobactin did not rescue the low-iron growth defect of the export mutant but severely impaired growth. Exogenous siderophores were taken up by the export mutant, and siderophore-delivered iron was used, but the deferrated siderophores accumulated intracellularly, indicating a blockade of siderophore recycling. This hypothesis was confirmed by the observation that radiolabeled carboxymycobactin was taken up and secreted again by Mtb. Addition of iron salts to an Mtb siderophore biosynthesis mutant stimulated more growth in the presence of a limiting amount of siderophores than iron-loaded siderophores alone. Thus, recycling enables Mtb to acquire iron at lower metabolic cost because Mtb cannot use iron salts without siderophores. Exogenous siderophores were bactericidal for the export mutant in submicromolar quantities. High-resolution mass spectrometry revealed that endogenous carboxymycobactin also accumulated in the export mutant. Toxic siderophore accumulation is prevented by a drug that inhibits siderophore biosynthesis. Intracellular accumulation of siderophores was toxic despite the use of an alternative iron source such as hemin, suggesting an additional inhibitory mechanism independent of iron availability. This study indicates that targeting siderophore export/recycling would deliver a one-two punch to Mtb: restricting access to iron and causing toxic intracellular siderophore accumulation.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Jones CM; Wells RM; Madduri AVR; Renfrow MB; Ratledge C; Moody DB; Niederweis M
  • Start Page

  • 1945
  • End Page

  • 1950
  • Volume

  • 111
  • Issue

  • 5