Role of porins in iron uptake by Mycobacterium smegmatis

Academic Article


  • Many bacteria rely on siderophores to extract iron from the environment. However, acquisition of iron-loaded siderophores is dependent on high-affinity uptake systems that are not produced under high-iron conditions. The fact that bacteria are able to maintain iron homeostasis in the absence of siderophores indicates that alternative iron acquisition systems exist. It has been speculated that such low-affinity uptake of iron in Gram-negative bacteria includes diffusion of iron ions or chelates across the outer membrane through porins. The outer membrane of the saprophytic Mycobacterium smegmatis contains the Msp family of porins, which enable the diffusion of small and hydrophilic solutes, such as monosaccharides, amino acids, and phosphate. However, it is unknown how cations cross the outer membrane of mycobacteria. Here, we show that the Msp porins of M. smegmatis are involved in the acquisition of soluble iron under high-iron conditions. Uptake of ferric ions by a triple porin mutant was reduced compared to wild-type (wt) M. smegmatis. An intracellular iron reporter indicated that derepression of iron-responsive genes occurs at higher iron concentrations in the porin mutant. This was consistent with the finding that the porin mutant produced more siderophores under low-iron conditions than wt M. smegmatis. In contrast, uptake of the exochelin MS, the main siderophore of M. smegmatis, was not affected by the lack of porins, indicating that a specific outer membrane siderophore receptor exists. These results provide, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence that general porins are indeed the outer membrane conduit of low-affinity iron acquisition systems in bacteria. Copyright © 2010, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Jones CM; Niederweis M
  • Start Page

  • 6411
  • End Page

  • 6417
  • Volume

  • 192
  • Issue

  • 24