Iron Acquisition in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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The highly contagious disease tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), which has been evolving drug resistance at an alarming rate. Like all human pathogens, Mtb requires iron for growth and virulence. Consequently, Mtb iron transport is an emerging drug target. However, the development of anti-TB drugs aimed at these metabolic pathways has been restricted by the dearth of information on Mtb iron acquisition. In this Review, we describe the multiple strategies utilized by Mtb to acquire ferric iron and heme iron. Mtb iron uptake is a complex process, requiring biosynthesis and subsequent export of Mtb siderophores, followed by ferric iron scavenging and ferric-siderophore import into Mtb. Additionally, Mtb possesses two possible heme uptake pathways and an Mtb-specific mechanism of heme degradation that yields iron and novel heme-degradation products. We conclude with perspectives for potential therapeutics that could directly target Mtb heme and iron uptake machineries. We also highlight how hijacking Mtb heme and iron acquisition pathways for drug import may facilitate drug transport through the notoriously impregnable Mtb cell wall.


This article was originally published in Chemical Reviews, volume 119, issue 2, in 2018.


American Chemical Society