Iron in parasitic protists - from uptake to storage and where we can interfere
It is well known that iron is a crucial micronutrient for all living organisms. Due to its chemical properties, iron is an irreplaceable cofactor of many essential enzymes but is also potentially toxic when present in excess. The acquisition of iron from the environment can be challenging for organisms, especially for parasitic protists that rely solely on the host for available nutrients. One of the host defense mechanisms is to starve parasites by detaining the crucial iron in a form unreachable for pathogens. In this review, we summarize current information about iron homeostasis-related pathways of important human parasites, such as Plasmodium, trypanosomes, Leishmania, pathogenic amoebas and Trichomonas. We focus on the parasites’ strategies of iron acquisition, storage/detoxification, trafficking, and iron-regulated protein expression and address the questions of iron-influenced virulence and anti-parasitic chemotherapeutics targeted to iron metabolism. Finally, we outline the potential of understudied and somewhat neglected iron chelating agents as safe chemotherapeutics against protozoan parasites.