The element iron is essential for bacteria and plays a key role in the virulence and pathology of bacterial diseases. The largest reservoir of iron within the human body is in protoporphyrin IX, the compound commonly referred to as heme and bound by hemoglobin. For many years, the study of heme uptake in bacteria was restricted to Gram-negative organisms. However, recent studies have shed light on how bacteria containing a thick peptidoglycan, such as Gram-positive bacteria, acquire and transport heme. This review summarizes old and new research covering the acquisition, transport, and utilization of heme in Gram-positive bacterial pathogens.
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