Issue 12, 2015

Iron and zinc exploitation during bacterial pathogenesis


Ancient bacteria originated from metal-rich environments. Billions of years of evolution directed these tiny single cell creatures to exploit the versatile properties of metals in catalyzing chemical reactions and biological responses. The result is an entire metallome of proteins that use metal co-factors to facilitate key cellular process that range from the production of energy to the replication of DNA. Two key metals in this regard are iron and zinc, both abundant on Earth but not readily accessible in a human host. Instead, pathogenic bacteria must employ clever ways to acquire these metals. In this review we describe the many elegant ways these bacteria mine, regulate, and craft the use of two key metals (iron and zinc) to build a virulence arsenal that challenges even the most sophisticated immune response.

Graphical abstract: Iron and zinc exploitation during bacterial pathogenesis

Article information

Article type
Critical Review
24 Jun 2015
19 Oct 2015
First published
19 Oct 2015

Metallomics, 2015,7, 1541-1554

Author version available