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2013
Roe, KL, Hogle SL, Barbeau KA.  2013.  Utilization of heme as an iron source by marine alphaproteobacteria in the roseobacter clade. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 79:5753-5762.   10.1128/aem.01562-13   AbstractWebsite

The bioavailability and utilization of porphyrin-bound iron, specifically heme, by marine microorganisms have rarely been examined. This study used Ruegeria sp. strain TrichCH4B as a model organism to study heme acquisition by a member of the Roseobacter clade. Analogs of known heme transporter proteins were found within the Ruegeria sp. TrichCH4B genome. The identified heme uptake and utilization system appears to be functional, as the heme genes were upregulated under iron stress, the bacterium could grow on ferric-porphyrin complexes as the sole iron source, and internalization of(55) Fe from ferric protoporphyrin IX was observed. The potential ability to utilize heme in the Roseobacter clade appears to be common, as half of the isolates in the RoseoBase database were found to have a complete heme uptake system. A degenerate primer set was designed and successfully used to identify the putative heme oxygenase gene (hmus) in the roseobacter heme uptake system from diverse nonenriched marine environments. This study found that members of the Roseobacter clade are capable of utilizing heme as an iron source and that this capability may be present in all types of marine environments. The results of this study add a new perspective to the current picture of iron cycling in marine systems, whereby relatively refractory intracellular pools of heme-bound iron may be taken up quickly and directly reincorporated into living bacteria without previous degradation or the necessity of a siderophore intermediate.

2012
Hopkinson, BM, Barbeau KA.  2012.  Iron transporters in marine prokaryotic genomes and metagenomes. Environmental Microbiology. 14:114-128.   10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02539.x   AbstractWebsite

In the pelagic environment, iron is a scarce but essential micronutrient. The iron acquisition capabilities of selected marine bacteria have been investigated, but the recent proliferation of marine prokaryotic genomes and metagenomes offers a more comprehensive picture of microbial iron uptake pathways in the ocean. Searching these data sets, we were able to identify uptake mechanisms for Fe3+, Fe2+ and iron chelates (e.g. siderophore and haem iron complexes). Transport of iron chelates is accomplished by TonB-dependent transporters (TBDTs). After clustering the TBDTs from marine prokaryotic genomes, we identified TBDT clusters for the transport of hydroxamate and catecholate siderophore iron complexes and haem using gene neighbourhood analysis and co-clustering of TBDTs of known function. The genomes also contained two classes of siderophore biosynthesis genes: NRPS (non-ribosomal peptide synthase) genes and NIS (NRPS Independent Siderophore) genes. The most common iron transporters, in both the genomes and metagenomes, were Fe3+ ABC transporters. Iron uptake-related TBDTs and siderophore biosynthesis genes were less common in pelagic marine metagenomes relative to the genomic data set, in part because Pelagibacter ubique and Prochlorococcus species, which almost entirely lacked these Fe uptake systems, dominate the metagenomes. Our results are largely consistent with current knowledge of iron speciation in the ocean, but suggest that in certain niches the ability to acquire siderophores and/or haem iron chelates is beneficial.