BioMetals (v.20, #3-4)

Preface by Jorge H. Crosa (217-218).

Energy-coupled outer membrane transport proteins and regulatory proteins by Volkmar Braun; Franziska Endriß (219-231).
FhuA and FecA are two examples of energy-coupled outer membrane import proteins of gram-negative bacteria. FhuA transports iron complexed by the siderophore ferrichrome and serves as a receptor for phages, a toxic bacterial peptide, and a toxic protein. FecA transports diferric dicitrate and regulates transcription of an operon encoding five ferric citrate (Fec) transport genes. Properties of FhuA mutants selected according to the FhuA crystal structure are described. FhuA mutants in the TonB box, the hatch, and the β-barrel are rather robust. TonB box mutants in FhuA FecA, FepA, Cir, and BtuB are compared; some mutations are suppressed by mutations in TonB. Mutant studies have not revealed a ferrichrome diffusion pathway, and tolerance to mutations in the region linking the TonB box to the hatch does not disclose a mechanism for how energy transfer from the cytoplasmic membrane to FhuA changes the conformation of FhuA such that bound substrates are released, the pore is opened, and substrates enter the periplasm, or how surface loops change their conformation such that TonB-dependent phages bind irreversibly and release their DNA into the cells. The FhuA and FecA crystal structures do not disclose the mechanism of these proteins, but they provide important information for specific functional studies. FecA is also a regulatory protein that transduces a signal from the cell surface into the cytoplasm. The interacting subdomains of the proteins in the FecA → FecR → FecI → RNA polymerase signal transduction pathway resulting in fecABCDE transcription have been determined. Energy-coupled transporters transport not only iron and vitamin B12, but also other substrates of very low abundance such as sugars across the outer membrane; transcription regulation of the transport genes may occur similarly to that of the Fec transport genes.
Keywords: Bacterial iron and sugar transporters; Signaling device; ECF sigma factors

The structure and function of heavy metal transport P1B-ATPases by José M. Argüello; Elif Eren; Manuel González-Guerrero (233-248).
P1B-type ATPases transport heavy metals (Cu+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Co2+, Cd2+, Pb2+) across membranes. Present in most organisms, they are key elements for metal homeostasis. P1B-type ATPases contain 6-8 transmembrane fragments carrying signature sequences in segments flanking the large ATP binding cytoplasmic loop. These sequences made possible the differentiation of at least four P1B-ATPase subgroups with distinct metal selectivity: P1B-1: Cu+, P1B-2: Zn2+, P1B-3: Cu2+, P1B-4: Co2+. Mutagenesis of the invariant transmembrane Cys in H6, Asn and Tyr in H7 and Met and Ser in H8 of the Archaeoglobus fulgidus Cu+-ATPase has revealed that their side chains likely coordinate the metals during transport and constitute a central unique component of these enzymes. The structure of various cytoplasmic domains has been solved. The overall structure of those involved in enzyme phosphorylation (P-domain), nucleotide binding (N-domain) and energy transduction (A-domain), appears similar to those described for the SERCA Ca2+-ATPase. However, they show different features likely associated with singular functions of these proteins. Many P1B-type ATPases, but not all of them, also contain a diverse arrangement of cytoplasmic metal binding domains (MBDs). In spite of their structural differences, all N- and C-terminal MBDs appear to control the enzyme turnover rate without affecting metal binding to transmembrane transport sites. In addition, eukaryotic Cu+-ATPases have multiple N-MBD regions that participate in the metal dependent targeting and localization of these proteins. The current knowledge of structure-function relationships among the different P1B-ATPases allows for a description of selectivity, regulation and transport mechanisms. Moreover, it provides a framework to understand mutations in human Cu+-ATPases (ATP7A and ATP7B) that lead to Menkes and Wilson diseases.
Keywords: P-type ATPases; Heavy metals; Membrane transport; Copper; Zinc; Cobalt; Cadmium

A structural comparison of human serum transferrin and human lactoferrin by Jeremy Wally; Susan K. Buchanan (249-262).
The transferrins are a family of proteins that bind free iron in the blood and bodily fluids. Serum transferrins function to deliver iron to cells via a receptor-mediated endocytotic process as well as to remove toxic free iron from the blood and to provide an anti-bacterial, low-iron environment. Lactoferrins (found in bodily secretions such as milk) are only known to have an anti-bacterial function, via their ability to tightly bind free iron even at low pH, and have no known transport function. Though these proteins keep the level of free iron low, pathogenic bacteria are able to thrive by obtaining iron from their host via expression of outer membrane proteins that can bind to and remove iron from host proteins, including both serum transferrin and lactoferrin. Furthermore, even though human serum transferrin and lactoferrin are quite similar in sequence and structure, and coordinate iron in the same manner, they differ in their affinities for iron as well as their receptor binding properties: the human transferrin receptor only binds serum transferrin, and two distinct bacterial transport systems are used to capture iron from serum transferrin and lactoferrin. Comparison of the recently solved crystal structure of iron-free human serum transferrin to that of human lactoferrin provides insight into these differences.
Keywords: Transferrin; Lactoferrin; Iron transport; Human transferrin receptor; Bacterial transferrin receptor

Iron is an essential nutrient for all microorganisms with a few exceptions. Microorganisms use a variety of systems to acquire iron from the surrounding environment. One such system includes production of an organic molecule known as a siderophore by many bacteria and fungi. Siderophores have the capacity to specifically chelate ferric ions. The ferricsiderophore complex is then transported into the cell via a specific receptor protein located in the outer membrane. This is an energy dependent process and is the subject of investigation in many research laboratories. The crystal structures of three outer membrane ferricsiderophore receptor proteins FepA, FhuA and FecA from Escherichia coli and two FpvA and FptA from Pseudomonas aeruginosa have recently been solved. Four of them, FhuA, FecA, FpvA and FptA have been solved in ligand-bound forms, which gave insight into the residues involved in ligand binding. The structures are similar and show the presence of similar domains; for example, all of them consist of a 22 strand-β-barrel formed by approximately 600 C-terminal residues while approximately 150 N-terminal residues fold inside the barrel to form a plug domain. The plug domain obstructs the passage through the barrel; therefore our research focuses on the mechanism through which the ferricsiderophore complex is transported across the receptor into the periplasm. There are two possibilities, one in which the plug domain is expelled into the periplasm making way for the ferricsiderophore complex and the second in which the plug domain undergoes structural rearrangement to form a channel through which the complex slides into the periplasm. Multiple alignment studies involving protein sequences of a large number of outer membrane receptor proteins that transport ferricsiderophores have identified several conserved residues. All of the conserved residues are located within the plug and barrel domain below the ligand binding site. We have substituted a number of these residues in FepA and FhuA with either alanine or glutamine resulting in substantial changes in the chemical properties of the residues. This was done to study the effect of the substitutions on the transport of ferricsiderophores. Another strategy used was to create a disulfide bond between the residues located on two adjacent β-strands of the plug domain or between the residues of the plug domain and the β-barrel in FhuA by substituting appropriate residues with cysteine. We have looked for the variants where the transport is affected without altering the binding. The data suggest a distinct role of these residues in the mechanism of transport. Our data also indicate that these transporters share a common mechanism of transport and that the plug remains within the barrel and possibly undergoes rearrangement to form a channel to transport the ferricsiderophore from the binding site to the periplasm.
Keywords: Iron; Siderophore; FhuA; Ferrichrome

Copper is an essential yet toxic metal ion. To satisfy cellular requirements, while, at the same time, minimizing toxicity, complex systems of copper trafficking have evolved in all cell types. The best conserved and most widely distributed of these involve Atx1-like chaperones and P1B-type ATPase transporters. Here, we discuss current understanding of how these chaperones bind Cu(I) and transfer it to the Atx1-like N-terminal domains of their cognate transporter.
Keywords: Copper trafficking; Chaperone; P-type ATPase; Copper transfer; Atx1; CopZ

The bacterial metallome: composition and stability with specific reference to the anaerobic bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans by Larry L. Barton; Florence Goulhen; Mireille Bruschi; Nicole A. Woodards; Richard M. Plunkett; Frans J. M. Rietmeijer (291-302).
In bacteria, the intracellular metal content or metallome reflects the metabolic requirements of the cell. When comparing the composition of metals in phytoplankton and bacteria that make up the macronutrients and the trace elements, we have determined that the content of trace elements in both of these microorganisms is markedly similar. The trace metals consisting of transition metals plus zinc are present in a stoichometric molar formula that we have calculated to be as follows: Fe1Mn0.3Zn0.26Cu0.03Co0.03Mo0.03. Under conditions of routine cultivation, trace metal homeostasis may be maintained by a series of transporter systems that are energized by the cell. In specific environments where heavy metals are present at toxic levels, some bacteria have developed a detoxification strategy where the metallic ion is reduced outside of the cell. The result of this extracellular metabolism is that the bacterial metallome specific for trace metals is not disrupted. One of the microorganisms that reduces toxic metals outside of the cell is the sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans. While D. desulfuricans reduces metals by enzymatic processes involving polyhemic cytochromes c 3 and hydrogenases, which are all present inside the cell; we report the presence of chain B cytochrome c nitrite reductase, NrfA, in the outer membrane fraction of D. desulfuricans ATCC 27774 and discuss its activity as a metal reductase.
Keywords: Metallome; Chromium; Trace metals; Transition metals

Bordetella iron transport and virulence by Timothy J. Brickman; Mark T. Anderson; Sandra K. Armstrong (303-322).
Bordetella pertussis, Bordetella parapertussis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica are pathogens with a complex iron starvation stress response important for adaptation to nutrient limitation and flux in the mammalian host environment. The iron starvation stress response is globally regulated by the Fur repressor using ferrous iron as the co-repressor. Expression of iron transport system genes of Bordetella is coordinated by priority regulation mechanisms that involve iron source sensing. Iron source sensing is mediated by distinct transcriptional activators that are responsive to the cognate iron source acting as the inducer.
Keywords: Bordetella ; Iron; Heme; Siderophore

Iron Acquisition by Legionella pneumophila by Nicholas P. Cianciotto (323-331).
For nearly 20 years, it was believed that Legionella pneumophila does not produce siderophores. Yet, we have now determined that L. pneumophila secretes a siderophore (legiobactin) that is detectable by the CAS assay. We have optimized conditions for legiobactin expression, shown its biological activity, and found genes (lbtAB) involved in its production and secretion. LbtA is homologous with siderophore synthetases from E. coli (aerobactin), Sinorhizobium (rhizobactin), and Bordetella (alcaligin), while LbtB is a member of the major facilitator superfamily of multidrug efflux pumps. Mutants lacking lbtAB produce 40’70% less CAS reactivity. The lbtA mutant is also defective for growth in deferrated media containing citrate, indicating that legiobactin is required in conditions of severe iron limitation. lbtAB mutants grow normally in macrophages and amoebae host cells as well as within the lungs of mice. L. pneumophila does express lbtA in macrophages, suggesting that legiobactin has a dispensable role in infection. Legiobactin is iron repressed and does not react in the Csáky and Arnow assays. Anion-exchange HPLC has been used to purify legiobactin, and thus far, structural analysis suggests that the molecule is similar but not identical to rhizobactin, rhizoferrin, and alcaligin. The residual CAS reactivity present in supernatants of the lbtAB mutants suggests that L. pneumophila might produce a second siderophore. Besides siderophores, we have determined that ferrous iron transport, encoded by feoB, is critical for L. pneumophila growth in low-iron conditions, in host cells, and in the mammalian lung. Some of our other studies have discovered a critical, yet undefined, role for the L. pneumophila cytochrome c maturation locus in low-iron growth, intracellular infection, and virulence.
Keywords: Legionnaires’ disease; Siderophores; Legiobactin; FeoB; Cytochrome c maturation

Intracellular metalloporphyrin metabolism in Staphylococcus aureus by Michelle L. Reniere; Victor J. Torres; Eric P. Skaar (333-345).
The bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for a significant amount of human morbidity and mortality, and the ability of S. aureus to cause disease is absolutely dependent on the acquisition of iron from the host. The most abundant iron source to invading staphylococci is in the form of the porphyrin heme. S. aureus is capable of acquiring nutrient iron from heme and hemoproteins via two heme-acquisition systems, the iron-regulated surface determinant system (Isd) and the heme transport system (Hts). Heme acquisition through these systems is involved in staphylococcal pathogenesis suggesting that the intracellular fate of heme plays a significant role in the infectious process. The valuable heme molecule presents a paradox to invading bacteria because although heme is an abundant source of nutrient iron, the extreme reactivity of heme makes it toxic at high concentrations. Therefore, bacteria must regulate the levels of intracellular heme to avoid toxicity. Although the molecular mechanisms responsible for staphylococcal heme acquisition are beginning to emerge, the mechanisms by which S. aureus regulate intracellular heme homeostasis are largely unknown. In this review we describe three potential fates of host-derived heme acquired by S. aureus during infection: (i) degradation for use as a nutrient iron source, (ii) incorporation into bacterial heme-binding proteins for use as an enzyme cofactor, or (iii) efflux through a dedicated ABC-type transport system. We hypothesize that the ultimate fate of exogenously acquired heme in S. aureus is dependent upon the intracellular and extracellular availability of both iron and heme.
Keywords: Staphylococcus ; Heme; Isd; Metalloporphyrin; Bacteria

Ferritins, bacterial virulence and plant defence by Aïda Boughammoura; Thierry Franza; Alia Dellagi; Camille Roux; Berthold Matzanke-Markstein; Dominique Expert (347-353).
The enterobacterial pathogen Erwinia chrysanthemi causes soft rot diseases on a wide range of plants, including the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This bacterium proliferates in the host by secreting a set of pectin degrading enzymes responsible for symptom development. In addition, survival of this bacterium in planta requires two high-affinity iron acquisition systems mediated by siderophores and protective systems against oxidative damages, suggesting the implication by both partners of accurate mechanisms controlling their iron homeostasis under conditions of infection. In this review, we address this question and we show that ferritins both from the pathogen and the host are subtly implicated in the control of this interplay.
Keywords: Erwinia chrysanthemi ; Arabidopsis thaliana ; Siderophore; Oxidative stress; Iron homeostasis

Copper entry into human cells: progress and unanswered questions by Edward B. Maryon; Shannon A. Molloy; Adriana M. Zimnicka; Jack H. Kaplan (355-364).
In this brief review we summarize what is known about the role of hCTR1 in mediating the entry of copper into human cells. There is a body of information that clearly identifies this protein as being a major source (though not the only source) of copper entry into human cells, and thus a crucial element of copper homeostasis. However, much remains that is poorly understood and key aspects of the physiological roles of hCTR1 and its regulation are only superficially appreciated. The particular characteristics of a transport process that in vivo involves the binding, transmembrane transport and release of a substrate that is not present in a free form in the intracellular or extracellular compartments poses particular challenges that are not encountered in the transport of more familiar physiologically important metal cations. Thus much of what we have learned about the more commonly encountered transported ions provides an inadequate model for studies of copper homeostasis. In this article we review progress made and identify the major questions that need to be resolved before an adequate description is attained of how copper entry into human cells is mediated and regulated by hCTR1.
Keywords: hCTR1; Copper transport; Copper Homeostasis

Iron acquisition in the dental pathogen Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans: What does it use as a source and how does it get this essential metal? by Eric R. Rhodes; Sharon Menke; Christopher Shoemaker; Andrew P. Tomaras; Glen McGillivary; Luis A. Actis (365-377).
Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans requires iron to grow under limiting conditions imposed by synthetic and natural chelators. Although none of the strains tested used hemoglobin, lactoferrin or transferrin, all of them used FeCl3 and hemin as iron sources under chelated conditions. Dot-blot binding assays showed that all strains bind lactoferrin, hemoglobin, and hemin but not transferrin. When compared with smooth strains, the rough isolates showed higher hemin binding activity, which was sensitive to proteinase K treatment. A. actinomycetemcomitans harbors the Fur-regulated afeABCD locus coding for iron acquisition in isogenic and non-isogenic cell backgrounds. The genome of this oral pathogen also harbors several other predicted iron uptake genes including the hitABC locus, which restored iron acquisition in the E. coli 1017 ent mutant. However, the disruption of this locus in the parental strain did not affect iron acquisition as drastically as the inactivation of AfeABCD, suggesting that the latter system could be more involved in iron transport than the HitABC system. The genome of this oral pathogen also harbors an active copy of the exbBexbDtonB operon, which could provide the energy needed for hemin acquisition. However, inactivation of each coding region of this operon did not affect the hemin and iron acquisition phenotypes of isogenic derivatives. This observation suggests that the function of these proteins could be replaced by those coded for by tolQ, tolR and tolA as it was described for other bacterial transport systems. Interruption of a hasR homolog, an actively transcribed gene that is predicted to code for an outer membrane hemophore receptor protein, did not affect the ability of an isogenic derivative to bind and use hemin under chelated conditions. This result also indicates that A. actinomycetemcomitans could produce more than one outer membrane hemin receptor as it was described in other human pathogens. All strains tested formed biofilms on plastic under iron-rich and iron-chelated conditions. However, smooth strains attached poorly and formed weaker biofilms when compared with rough isolates. The incubation of rough cells in the presence of FeCl3 or hemin resulted in an increased number of smaller aggregates and microcolonies as compared to the fewer but larger aggregates formed when cells were grown in the presence of dipyridyl.
Keywords: Iron acquisition; Hemin acquisition; Iron regulation; Biofilms

Ecology of siderophores, as described in the present review, analyzes the factors that allow the production and function of siderophores under various environmental conditions. Microorganisms that excrete siderophores are able to grow in natural low-iron environments by extracting residual iron from insoluble iron hydroxides, protein-bound iron or from other iron chelates. Compared to the predominantly mobile bacteria, the fungi represent mostly immobile microorganisms that rely on local nutrient concentrations. Feeding the immobile is a general strategy of fungi and plants, which depend on the local nutrient resources. This also applies to iron nutrition, which can be improved by excretion of siderophores. Most fungi produce a variety of different siderophores, which cover a wide range of physico-chemical properties in order to overcome adverse local conditions of iron solubility. Resource zones will be temporally and spatially dynamic which eventually results in conidiospore production, transport to new places and outgrow of mycelia from conidiospores. Typically, extracellular and intracellular siderophores exist in fungi which function either in transport or storage of ferric iron. Consequently, extracelluar and intracellular reduction of siderophores may occur depending on the fungal strain, although in most fungi transport of the intact siderophore iron complex has been observed. Regulation of siderophore biosynthesis is essential in fungi and allows an economic use of siderophores and metabolic resources. Finally, the chemical stability of fungal siderophores is an important aspect of microbial life in soil and in the rhizosphere. Thus, insolubility of iron in the environment is counteracted by dissolution and chelation through organic acids and siderophores by various fungi.
Keywords: Iron; Siderophores; Fungi; Yeast; Mycorrhiza; Ecology

Characterization of ferric-anguibactin transport in Vibrio anguillarum by Claudia S. López; Jorge H. Crosa (393-403).
The fish pathogen Vibrio anguillarum is the causative agent of a fatal hemorrhagic septicemia in salmonid fish. Many serotype O1 strains harbors a 65 Kbp plasmid (pJM1 encoding an iron sequestering system essential for virulence. The genes involved in the biosynthesis of the indigenous siderophore anguibactin are encoded by both the pJM1 plasmid and the chromosome, while those involved in the transport of the ferric-siderophore complex, including the outer membrane receptor, are plasmid-encoded. This work describes the role of specific amino acid residues of the outer membrane receptor FatA in the mechanism of transport of ferric-anguibactin. FatA modeling indicated that this protein has a 22 stranded ß-barrel blocked by the plug domain, the latter being formed by residues 51–54. Deletion of the plug domain resulted in a receptor unable to act as an open channel for the transport of the ferric anguibactin complex.
Keywords: Iron transport; Anguibactin; Vibrio anguillarum ; Receptor; TonB2; Plug domain

Iron acquisition in Vibrio cholerae by Elizabeth E. Wyckoff; Alexandra R. Mey; Shelley M. Payne (405-416).
Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, has an absolute requirement for iron and must obtain this element in the human host as well as in its varied environmental niches. It has multiple systems for iron acquisition, including the TonB-dependent transport of heme, the endogenous siderophore vibriobactin and several siderophores that are produced by other microorganisms. There is also a Feo system for the transport of ferrous iron and an ABC transporter, Fbp, which transports ferric iron. There appears to be at least one additional high affinity iron transport system that has not yet been identified. In iron replete conditions, iron acquisition genes are repressed by Fur. Fur also represses the synthesis of a small, regulatory RNA, RyhB, which negatively regulates genes for iron-containing proteins involved in the tricarboxylic acid cycle and respiration as well as genes for motility and chemotaxis. The redundancy in iron transport systems has made it more difficult to determine the role of individual systems in vivo and in vitro, but it may reflect the overall importance of iron in the growth and survival of V. cholerae.
Keywords: Cholera; Heme; Siderophore; Ferric; Ferrous; Vibrio Cholerae ; Iron; Fur; TonB; RyhB; Feo; Vibriobactin; ABC transporter

Metal-responsive gene regulation and metal transport in Helicobacter species by Clara Belzer; Jeroen Stoof; Arnoud H. M. van Vliet (417-429).
Helicobacter species are among the most successful colonizers of the mammalian gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary tract. Colonization is usually lifelong, indicating that Helicobacter species have evolved intricate mechanisms of dealing with stresses encountered during colonization of host tissues, like restriction of essential metal ions. The recent availability of genome sequences of the human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori, the murine enterohepatic pathogen Helicobacter hepaticus and the unannotated genome sequence of the ferret gastric pathogen Helicobacter mustelae has allowed for comparitive genome analyses. In this review we present such analyses for metal transporters, metal-storage and metal-responsive regulators in these three Helicobacter species, and discuss possible contributions of the differences in metal metabolism in adaptation to the gastric or enterohepatic niches occupied by Helicobacter species.
Keywords: Helicobacter ; Microbial pathogenesis; Gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary tract; Metal-responsive regulation; Metal transport

The Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) is comprised of at least 10 closely related species of Gram-negative proteobacteria that are associated with infections in certain groups of immunocompromised individuals, particularly those with cystic fibrosis. Infections in humans tend to occur in the lungs, which present an iron-restricted environment to a prospective pathogen, and accordingly members of the Bcc appear to possess efficient mechanisms for iron capture. These bacteria specify up to four different types of siderophore (ornibactin, pyochelin, cepabactin and cepaciachelin) that employ the full repertoire of iron-binding groups present in most naturally occurring siderophores. Members of the Bcc are also capable of utilising some exogenous siderophores that they are not able to synthesise. In addition to siderophore-mediated mechanisms of iron uptake, the Bcc possess mechanisms for acquiring iron from haem and from ferritin. The Bcc therefore appear to be well-equipped for life in an iron-poor environment.
Keywords: Siderophore biosynthesis; Iron-dependent gene regulation; Pyochelin; Ornibactin; Salicylic acid

The TonB system of Escherichia coli (and most other Gram-negative bacteria) is distinguished by its importance to iron acquisition, its contribution to bacterial pathogenesis, and a unique and mysterious mechanism of action. This system somehow gathers the potential energy of the cytoplasmic membrane (CM) proton gradient and delivers it to active transporters in the outer membrane (OM). Our understanding of this system is confounded by the challenge of reconciling often contradictory in vivo and in vitro studies that are presented in this review.
Keywords: TonB; Outer membrane; Iron transport; B-group colicins; Crystal and NMR structures

Bioinformatic analysis of the TonB protein family by Byron C. H. Chu; R. Sean Peacock; Hans J. Vogel (467-483).
TonB is a protein prevalent in a large number of Gram-negative bacteria that is believed to be responsible for the energy transduction component in the import of ferric iron complexes and vitamin B12 across the outer membrane. We have analyzed all the TonB proteins that are currently contained in the Entrez database and have identified nine different clusters based on its conserved 90-residue C-terminal domain amino acid sequence. The vast majority of the proteins contained a single predicted cytoplasmic transmembrane domain; however, nine of the TonB proteins encompass a ∼90 amino acid N-terminal extension homologous to the MecR1 protein, which is composed of three additional predicted transmembrane helices. The periplasmic linker region, which is located between the N-terminal domain and the C-terminal domain, is extremely variable both in length (22–283 amino acids) and in proline content, indicating that a Pro-rich domain is not a required feature for all TonB proteins. The secondary structure of the C-terminal domain is found to be well preserved across all families, with the most variable region being between the second α-helix and the third β-strand of the antiparallel β-sheet. The fourth β-strand found in the solution structure of the Escherichia coli TonB C-terminal domain is not a well conserved feature in TonB proteins in most of the clusters. Interestingly, several of the TonB proteins contained two C-terminal domains in series. This analysis provides a framework for future structure-function studies of TonB, and it draws attention to the unusual features of several TonB proteins.
Keywords: Gram-negative bacteria; Iron transport; TonB; Multiple sequence alignment

The ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein, as originally described in Escherichia coli, is an iron-sensing repressor that controls the expression of genes for siderophore biosynthesis and iron transport. Although Fur is commonly thought of as a metal-dependent repressor, Fur also activates the expression of many genes by either indirect or direct mechanisms. In the best studied model systems, Fur functions as a global regulator of iron homeostasis controlling both the induction of iron uptake functions (under iron limitation) and the expression of iron storage proteins and iron-utilizing enzymes (under iron sufficiency). We now appreciate that there is a tremendous diversity in metal selectivity and biological function within the Fur family which includes sensors of iron (Fur), zinc (Zur), manganese (Mur), and nickel (Nur). Despite numerous studies, the mechanism of metal ion sensing by Fur family proteins is still controversial. Other family members use metal catalyzed oxidation reactions to sense peroxide-stress (PerR) or the availability of heme (Irr).
Keywords: Fur; metalloregulation; Metal homeostasis

Living without Fur: the subtlety and complexity of iron-responsive gene regulation in the symbiotic bacterium Rhizobium and other α-proteobacteria by Andrew W. B. Johnston; Jonathan D. Todd; Andrew R. Curson; Sun Lei; Nefeli Nikolaidou-Katsaridou; Mikhail S. Gelfand; Dmitry A. Rodionov (501-511).
The alpha-proteobacteria include several important genera, including the symbiotic N2-fixing “rhizobia” the plant pathogen Agrobacterium, the mammalian pathogens Brucella, Bartonella as well as many others that are of environmental or other interest—including Rhodobacter, Caulobacter and the hugely abundant marine genus Pelagibacter. Only a few species—mainly different members of the rhizobia—have been analyzed directly for their ability to use and to respond to iron. These studies, however, have shown that at least some of the “alphas” differ fundamentally in the ways in which they regulate their genes in response to Fe availability. In this paper, we build on our own work on Rhizobium leguminosarum (the symbiont of peas, beans and clovers) and on Bradyrhizobium japonicum, which nodulates soybeans and which has been studied in Buffalo and Zürich. In the former species, the predominant Fe-responsive regulator is not Fur, but RirA, a member of the Rrf2 protein family and which likely has an FeS cluster cofactor. In addition, there are several R. leguminosarum genes that are expressed at higher levels in Fe-replete conditions and at least some of these are regulated by Irr, a member of the Fur superfamily and which has the unusual property of being degraded by the presence of heme. In silico analyses of the genome sequences of other bacteria indicate that Irr occurs in all members of the Rhizobiales and the Rhodobacterales and that RirA is found in all but one branch of these two lineages, the exception being the clade that includes B. japonicum. Nearly all the Rhizobiales and the Rhodobacterales contain a gene whose product resembles bona fide Fur. However, direct genetic studies show that in most of the Rhizobiales and in the Rhodobacterales it is a “Mur” (a manganese responsive repressor of a small number of genes involved in Mn uptake) or, in Bradyrhizobium, it recognizes the operator sequences of only a few genes that are involved in Fe metabolism. We propose that the Rhizobiales and the Rhodobacterales have relegated Fur to a far more minor role than in (say) E. coli and that they employ Irr and, in the Rhizobiales, RirA as their global Fe-responsive transcriptional regulators. In contrast to the direct interaction between Fe2+ and conventional Fur, we suggest that these bacteria sense Fe more indirectly as functions of the intracellular concentrations of FeS clusters and of heme. Thus, their “iron-omes” may be more accurately linked to the real-time needs for the metal and not just to its absolute concentration in the environment.
Keywords: α-Proteobacteria; Fur; Iron; Irr; Manganese; Mur; Rhizobia; RirA; Rrf2 family

Combinations of DNA antioxidant response element and mRNA iron responsive element regulate ferritin expression in animals in response to oxidant and iron stress, or normal developmental signals. Ferritins are protein nanocages, found in animals, plants, bacteria, and archaea, that convert iron and oxygen to ferric oxy biominerals in the protein central cavity; the mineral traps potentially toxic reactants and concentrates iron for the future synthesis of other iron/heme proteins. Regulatory signals and the nanocage gene products are the same throughout biology, but the genetic mechanisms, DNA versus DNA + mRNA, vary. The number of genes, temporal regulation, tissue distribution in multi-cellular organisms, and gene product size (maxi-ferritins have 24 subunits and mini-ferritins, or Dps proteins, have 12 subunits and are restricted to bacteria and archaea) suggest an overwhelming diversity and variability. However, common themes of regulation and function are described which indicate not only that the three-dimensional protein structure and the functions of the ferritins are conserved, but also that broad features of genetic regulation are conserved relative to organismal and/or community needs. The analysis illustrates the centrality of the ferritins to life with iron and oxygen and models how Nature harnesses potentially dangerous chemistry for biology.
Keywords: Oxygen; Ferritin; Dps protein; Antioxidant response (ARE) genes; mRNA (IRE) regulation

Iron homeostasis in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe by Simon Labbé; Benoit Pelletier; Alexandre Mercier (523-537).
Schizosaccharomyces pombe has acquisition processes for iron, an essential nutrient. One pathway consists to produce, excrete, and capture siderophore–iron complexes. A second pathway requires enzymatic reduction of ferric iron at the cell surface prior to uptake by a permease–oxidase complex. Genes encoding proteins involved in iron assimilation are transcriptionally regulated as a function of iron availability. Under high iron conditions, the GATA-type regulator Fep1 represses the expression of iron uptake genes. The repressor function of Fep1 requires the presence of the Tup11 or Tup12 transcriptional co-repressor. Under low iron conditions, two regulatory mechanisms occur. First, the iron transport genes are highly induced. Second, there is a transcription factor cascade implicating the heteromeric CCAAT-binding complex that turns off a set of genes encoding iron-utilizing proteins, presumably to avoid a futile expenditure of energy in producing iron-using proteins that lack the necessary cofactor to function. Thus, collectively, these regulatory responses to variations in iron concentrations ensure that iron is present within cells for essential biochemical reactions, yet prevent the accumulation of iron or iron-using proteins to deleterious levels.
Keywords: Iron; Siderophore; Reductive iron transport; Fep1; Tup11/12; CCAAT-binding factor; Fission yeast

Iron-uptake in the Euryarchaeon Halobacterium salinarum by Dirk Hubmacher; Berthold F. Matzanke; Stefan Anemüller (539-547).
Iron-uptake is well studied in a plethora of pro- and eukaryotic organisms with the exception of Archaea, which thrive mainly in extreme environments. In this study, the mechanism of iron transport in the extremely halophilic Euryarchaeon Halobacterium salinarum strain JW 5 was analyzed. Under low-iron growth conditions no siderophores were detectable in culture supernatants. However, various xenosiderophores support growth of H. salinarum. In [55Fe]–[14C] double-label experiments, H. salinarum displays uptake of iron but not of the chelator citrate. Uptake of iron was inhibited by cyanide and at higher concentrations by Ga. Furthermore, a KM for iron uptake in cells of 2.36 μM and a Vmax of approximately 67 pmol Fe/min/mg protein was determined. [55Fe]-uptake kinetics were measured in the absence and presence of Ga. Uptake of iron was inhibited merely at very high Ga concentrations. The results indicate an energy dependent iron uptake process in H. salinarum and suggest reduction of the metal at the membrane level.
Keywords: Archaea; Halobacterium salinarum ; Iron uptake; Xenosiderophore

Iron and citrate are essential for the metabolism of most organisms, and regulation of iron and citrate biology at both the cellular and systemic levels is critical for normal physiology and survival. Mitochondrial and cytosolic aconitases catalyze the interconversion of citrate and isocitrate, and aconitase activities are affected by iron levels, oxidative stress and by the status of the Fe–S cluster biogenesis apparatus. Assembly and disassembly of Fe–S clusters is a key process not only in regulating the enzymatic activity of mitochondrial aconitase in the citric acid cycle, but also in controlling the iron sensing and RNA binding activities of cytosolic aconitase (also known as iron regulatory protein IRP1). This review discusses the central role of aconitases in intermediary metabolism and explores how iron homeostasis and Fe–S cluster biogenesis regulate the Fe–S cluster switch and modulate intracellular citrate flux.
Keywords: Iron–sulfur cluster biogenesis; Aconitase; Citrate metabolism; Iron metabolism

Maturation of [NiFe]-hydrogenases in Escherichia coli by Lucia Forzi; R. Gary Sawers (565-578).
Hydrogenases catalyze the reversible oxidation of dihydrogen. Catalysis occurs at bimetallic active sites that contain either nickel and iron or only iron and the nature of these active sites forms the basis of categorizing the enzymes into three classes, the [NiFe]-hydrogenases, the [FeFe]-hydrogenases and the iron sulfur cluster-free [Fe]-hydrogenases. The [NiFe]-hydrogenases and the [FeFe]-hydrogenases are unrelated at the amino acid sequence level but the active sites share the unusual feature of having diatomic ligands associated with the Fe atoms in the these enzymes. Combined structural and spectroscopic studies of [NiFe]-hydrogenases identified these diatomic ligands as CN- and CO groups. Major advances in our understanding of the biosynthesis of these ligands have been achieved primarily through the study of the membrane-associated [NiFe]-hydrogenases of Escherichia coli. A complex biosynthetic machinery is involved in synthesis and attachment of these ligands to the iron atom, insertion of the Fe(CN)2CO group into the apo-hydrogenase, introduction of the nickel atom into the pre-formed active site and ensuring that the holoenzyme is correctly folded prior to delivery to the membrane. Although much remains to be uncovered regarding each of the individual biochemical steps on the pathway to synthesis of a fully functional enzyme, our understanding of the initial steps in CN- synthesis have revealed that it is generated from carbamoyl phosphate. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the metabolic origins of the carbonyl group may be different.
Keywords: Hydrogenase; CO and CN ligands; Metal centers; Cofactor biosynthesis; Nickel and iron

Signal transduction in monocytes: the role of zinc ions by Hajo Haase; Lothar Rink (579-585).
The availability of zinc has a regulatory role in the immune system. It can have either pro- or anti-inflammatory effects, which both seem to be a consequence of a direct interaction of zinc with the cytokine secretion by monocytes. In this review, the molecular basis for this effect, the interaction of zinc with the signal transduction of monocytes, is discussed. In particular, zinc seems to activate or inhibit several signaling pathways that interact with the signal transduction of pathogen sensing receptors, the so-called Toll-like receptors (TLR), which sense pathogen-derived molecular structures and, upon activation, lead to secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The interaction of zinc with protein tyrosine phosphatases and protein kinase C, and a direct modulation of lipopolysaccharide binding to its receptor (TLR-4) all result in enhanced cytokine production. On the other hand, a complex interaction between zinc, NO and cyclic nucleotide signaling, and inhibition of interleukin-1 receptor associated kinase-1, and inhibitor of kappa B kinase all counteract the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. A role for the zinc binding protein metallothionein as a regulator for intracellular zinc signaling is discussed. By acting on all these signaling molecules, the zinc status of monocytes can have a direct effect on inflammation.
Keywords: Zinc; Signal transduction; Monocytes; Cytokines; Inflammation

The ferric uptake repressor (Fur) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and a wide assortment of other prokaryotic organisms, has been mostly regarded as a negative regulator (repressor) of genes involved in iron acquisition (e.g., expression and utilization of siderophores) or of iron-regulated genes involved in virulence (e.g., toxins). However, there is an emerging picture of an even broader role for this protein in basic bacterial biology. Evidence has now accumulated indicating that Fur acts in a positive manner as well, and that it has a considerably wider impact on gene expression than originally perceived. We discovered that in P. aeruginosa Fur directly (i.e., negatively) regulates the expression of two, nearly identical tandem small (<200nt) RNA transcripts (sRNA). Our initial experiments showed that these Fur-regulated sRNAs (PrrF) affected expression of certain genes we initially thought might be directly, but positively, regulated by Fur. However, with discovery of the Fur-regulated sRNAs, first in Escherichia coli and then in P. aeruginosa, it became clear that Fur, in at least some cases, exerts its positive regulatory effect on gene expression by repressing the expression a negative regulatory factor (i.e., PrrF), which acts at the posttranscriptional level. While a clear picture was already available regarding the function of genes (see above) that are directly repressed by Fur (negative regulation), the functional classes of genes that are influenced by Fur-repressed sRNAs (positive regulation) had not been identified for P. aeruginosa. Accordingly we established a set of rigorous criteria, based on microarray experimental data, to identify the cohort of genes that are likely to be directly influenced by Fur-regulated PrrFs. More than 60 genes that fulfilled these strict criteria were identified. These include genes encoding proteins required for the sequestration of iron (e.g., bacterioferritins) and genes encoding enzymes (superoxide dismutase) vital to defense against iron catalyzed oxidative stress. More notably however, we identified more than 30 genes encoding proteins involved in carbon catabolism and aerobic or anaerobic respiration that are regulated by PrrFs. A significant number of genes encoding enzymes (e.g., aconitase, citrate synthase) involved in the TCA cycle are controlled by the PrrFs however, in quite a few instances there are genes encoding proteins with redundant functions (i.e., aconitase, citrate synthase) that do not appear to be influenced in any way by PrrFs. Based on our microarray experiments, as well as on phenotypic data, we propose that the Fur regulated sRNAs (i.e., PrrFs) exert a powerful regulatory influence that permits the sparing of vital metabolic compounds (e.g., citrate) during periods of iron limitation. These and other data to be presented indicate that Fur controlled gene expression in bacteria like P. aeruginosa is considerably more imperative and intricate than previously appreciated.
Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa ; Iron acquisition; Ferric uptake regulator; Pyoverdine signaling; Regulatory sRNAs; Intermediary metabolism; Biofilms

Heme acquisition by hemophores by S. Cescau; H. Cwerman; S. Létoffé; P. Delepelaire; C. Wandersman; F. Biville (603-613).
Bacterial hemophores are secreted to the extracellular medium, where they scavenge heme from various hemoproteins due to their higher affinity for this compound, and return it to their specific outer membrane receptor. HasR, the outer membrane receptor of the HasA hemophore, assumes multiple functions which require various energy levels. Binding of heme and, of heme-free or heme-loaded hemophores is energy-independent. Heme transfer from the holo-hemophore to the outer membrane receptor is also energy-independent. In contrast, heme transport and hemophore release require basal or high levels of TonB and proton motive force, respectively. In addition, HasR is a component of a signaling cascade, regulating expression of the has operon via specific sigma and anti-sigma factors encoded by genes clustered at the has operon. The signal is the heme landing on HasR in the presence of the hemophore in its apo form. The has system is the only system thus far characterized in which the anti-sigma factor is submitted to the same signaling cascade as the target operon. Specific autoregulation of the has system, combined with negative regulation by the Fur protein, permits bacterial adaptation to the available iron source. In the presence of a heme-loaded hemophore, inactive anti-sigma factor is accumulated and can be activated as soon as the heme source dries up. Hence, the has system, instead of being submitted to amplification like other systems regulated by sigma anti-sigma factors, functions by pulses triggered by heme availability.
Keywords: Heme uptake; Hemophore; Signaling cascade

Heme, an iron supply for vibrios pathogenic for fish by Manuel L. Lemos; Carlos R. Osorio (615-626).
One of the main mechanisms present in gram-negative bacterial pathogens to obtain iron is the utilization of free heme or heme proteins from the host tissues. Vibrio anguillarum, the etiological agent of vibriosis in fish, and Photobacterium damselae subsp. piscicida, the causative agent of fish pasteurellosis, can acquire iron from free heme or heme-containing proteins present in the host tissues by a siderophore-independent mechanism. Similarly to other animal and human pathogens, the general mechanism for heme uptake in these two species consists in the presence of an outer membrane receptor that transport the heme molecule into the periplasm via a TonB-dependent process, and additional proteins that complete the transport of heme from the periplasm into the cell cytoplasm. Expression of heme uptake genes is iron-regulated at the transcriptional level by the repressor protein Fur. The heme uptake mechanisms are believed to contribute to virulence for fish. The existence of variability in the distribution of heme transport genes among strains suggests that gene inactivation and/or horizontal transfer might play a significant role in generating intraespecific genetic diversity.
Keywords: Vibrio anguillarum ; Photobacterium damselae ; Fish pathogens; Iron uptake; Heme uptake; Virulence

Copper-transporting ATPase ATP7B (Wilson disease protein) is a member of the P-type ATPase family with characteristic domain structure and distinct ATP-binding site. ATP7B plays a central role in the regulation of copper homeostasis in the liver by delivering copper to the secretory pathway and mediating export of excess copper into the bile. The dual function of ATP7B in hepatocytes is coupled with copper-dependent intracellular relocalization of the transporter. The final destination of ATP7B in hepatocytes during the copper-induced trafficking process is still under debate. We show the results of immunocytochemistry experiments in polarized HepG2 cells that support the model in which elevated copper induces trafficking of ATP7B to sub-apical vesicles, and transiently to the canalicular membrane. In Atp7b -/- mice, an animal model of Wilson disease, both copper delivery to the trans-Golgi network and copper export into the bile are disrupted despite large accumulation of copper in the cytosol. We review the biochemical and physiological changes associated with Atp7b inactivation in mouse liver and discuss the pleiotropic consequences of the common Wilson disease mutation, His1069Gln.
Keywords: ATP7B; Wilson disease; Copper; Liver

Metals ions and neurodegeneration by Francisco Molina-Holgado; Robert C. Hider; Alessandra Gaeta; Robert Williams; Paul Francis (639-654).
Neurodegenerative disorders include a variety of pathological conditions, which share similar critical metabolic processes such as protein aggregation and oxidative stress, both of which are associated with the involvement of metal ions. In this review Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are mainly discussed, with the aim of identifying common trends underlying these neurological conditions. Chelation therapy could be a valuable therapeutic approach, since metals are considered to be a pharmacological target for the rationale design of new therapeutic agents directed towards the treatment of neurodegeneration.
Keywords: Neurodegeneration; Protein aggregation; Oxidative stress; Aβ-amyloid; α-Synuclein; Chelation therapy; Iron

Nickel-binding and accessory proteins facilitating Ni-enzyme maturation in Helicobacter pylori by Robert J. Maier; Stéphane L. Benoit; Susmitha Seshadri (655-664).
Helicobacter pylori colonizes the human gastric mucosa and this can lead to chronic gastritis, peptic and duodenal ulcers, and even gastric cancers. The bacterium colonizes over one-half of the worlds population. Nickel plays a major role in the bacteriums colonization and persistence attributes as two nickel enzyme sinks obligately contain the metal. Urease accounts for up to 10% of the total cellular protein made and is required for initial colonization processes, and the hydrogen oxidizing hydrogenase provides the bacterium a high-energy substrate yielding low potential electrons for energy generation. A battery of accessory proteins are needed for maturation or activation of each of the apoenzymes. These include Ni-chaperones and GTPases, some of which are unique to each Ni-enzyme and others that are individually required for maturation of both the Ni-enzymes. H. pylori’s need for some conventional hydrogenase maturation proteins playing roles in urease maturation may have to do with the poor nickel-sequestering ability of the UreE urease maturation protein compared to other systems. H. pylori also possesses a NixA nickel specific permease, a nickel dependent regulator (NikR), a recently identified nickel efflux system (CznABC), and a histidine-rich heat shock protein, HspA. Based on mutant analysis approaches all these proteins have roles in nickel homeostasis, in urease expression, and in host colonization. The His-rich putative nickel storage proteins Hpn and Hpn-like play roles in nickel detoxification and may influence the levels of Ni-activated urease that can be achieved.
Keywords: Nickel enzyme; Hyp protein; Hydrogenase; Urease; Gastric colonization; Ulcer; Gastric cancer; Nickel storage; Nickel regualtion; Histidine-rich

Regulation of systemic iron homeostasis: how the body responds to changes in iron demand by Gregory J. Anderson; Deepak Darshan; Sarah J. Wilkins; David M. Frazer (665-674).
The iron that is required to meet the metabolic needs of cells and tissues is derived from the plasma. Plasma iron in turn reflects the release of iron from various body cells, principally the macrophages of the reticuloendothelial system, and the absorption of dietary iron by the proximal small intestine. This iron donation is highly regulated and the liver-derived peptide hepcidin has emerged as the key modulator of cellular iron export. Following its synthesis and secretion from the liver, circulating hepcidin reduces iron export into the plasma by binding to the iron efflux protein ferroportin1 on the surface of enterocytes, macrophages and other cell types and causing its internalization. The level of hepatic hepcidin expression is influenced by HFE, transferrin receptor 2 and hemojuvelin, and the signal transduction pathway(s) linking these proteins to hepcidin are only beginning to be revealed. Hemojuvelin has recently been shown to signal through the bone morphogenetic protein pathway, ultimately activating receptor SMAD/SMAD4 complexes to alter hepcidin transcription. Circulating differic transferrin has emerged as a possible upstream regulator of the liver-based hepcidin regulatory pathway. In addition to being regulated by body iron requirements, hepcidin expression can be modulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6. The continuing analysis of inherited disorders of iron metabolism combined with biochemical analysis of signal transduction pathways is essential to fully define this important regulatory system.
Keywords: Hemojuvelin; HFE; TfR2; Hepcidin; Ferroportin1

Metal Ion availability in mitochondria by Fabien Pierrel; Paul A. Cobine; Dennis R. Winge (675-682).
Transition metal ions are required for many aspects of mitochondrial physiology. Copper, iron, manganese and zinc are cofactors in metalloenzymes and metalloproteins within the organelle. Little is known how cells maintain optimal pools of these metal ions for mitochondrial function. This review documents the available literature on mitochondrial metal ion pools and protein metallation reactions. Upon perturbation in metal pools, mis-metallation reactions do occur. Thus, regulation of metal ion accessibility and bioavailability must exist.
Keywords: Mitochondria; Metals; Metallation; Copper

Copper homeostasis gene discovery in Drosophila melanogaster by Melanie Norgate; Adam Southon; Sige Zou; Ming Zhan; Yu Sun; Phil Batterham; James Camakaris (683-697).
Recent studies have shown a high level of conservation between Drosophila melanogaster and mammalian copper homeostasis mechanisms. These studies have also demonstrated the efficiency with which this species can be used to characterize novel genes, at both the cellular and whole organism level. As a versatile and inexpensive model organism, Drosophila is also particularly useful for gene discovery applications and thus has the potential to be extremely useful in identifying novel copper homeostasis genes and putative disease genes. In order to assess the suitability of Drosophila for this purpose, three screening approaches have been investigated. These include an analysis of the global transcriptional response to copper in both adult flies and an embryonic cell line using DNA microarray analysis. Two mutagenesis-based screens were also utilized. Several candidate copper homeostasis genes have been identified through this work. In addition, the results of each screen were carefully analyzed to identify any factors influencing efficiency and sensitivity. These are discussed here with the aim of maximizing the efficiency of future screens and the most suitable approaches are outlined. Building on this information, there is great potential for the further use of Drosophila for copper homeostasis gene discovery.
Keywords: Copper; Drosophila melanogaster ; Mutagenesis; Microarray; Screen

Roles of the Yfe and Feo transporters of Yersinia pestis in iron uptake and intracellular growth by Robert D. Perry; Ildefonso Mier Jr.; Jacqueline D. Fetherston (699-703).
In Yersinia pestis, the Yfe and Feo systems likely function to transport ferrous iron. Both FeoA and FeoB are essential for iron acquisition activity while FeoC is not. Mutations in yfe and feo had an additive effect on microaerophilic growth under iron-chelating conditions. Y. pestis cells lacking the Ybt siderophore-dependent system, the Yfe or the Feo system grow normally in J774A.1 cells. However, a double yfeAB feoB mutant was no longer able to grow in this murine macrophage cell line. This growth defect likely resulted from iron and not manganese deprivation since a yfeAB mntH mutant grew normally in J774A.1 cells. These results suggest that the Yfe and Feo systems are somewhat redundant ferrous iron transporters capable of iron acquisition during intracellular growth of the plague bacterium.
Keywords: Plague; Feo; Yfe; Iron transport; Intracellular growth

A structural perspective on copper uptake in eukaryotes by Christopher J. De Feo; Stephen G. Aller; Vinzenz M. Unger (705-716).
Over a decade ago, genetic studies identified a family of small integral membrane proteins, commonly referred to as copper transporters (CTRs) that are both required and sufficient for cellular copper uptake in a yeast genetic complementation assay. We recently used electron crystallography to determine a projection density map of the human high affinity transporter hCTR1 embedded into a lipid bilayer. At 6 Å resolution, this first glimpse of the structure revealed that hCTR1 is trimeric and possesses the type of radial symmetry that traditionally has been associated with the structure of certain ion channels such as potassium or gap junction channels. Representative for this particular type of architecture, a region of low protein density at the center of the trimer is consistent with the existence of a copper permeable pore along the center three-fold axis of the trimer. In this contribution, we will briefly discuss how recent structure–function studies correlate with the projection density map, and provide a perspective with respect to the cellular uptake of other transition metals.
Keywords: Copper; Channel; Transporter; Structure; cryoEM