The Legionella pneumophila siderophore legiobactin is a polycarboxylate that is identical in structure to rhizoferrin

Denise M. Burnside, Yuyang Wu, Saman Shafaie, Nicholas P. Cianciotto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Legionella pneumophila, the agent of Legionnaires' disease, secretes a siderophore (legiobactin) that promotes bacterial infection of the lung. In past work, we determined that cytoplasmic LbtA (from Legiobactin gene A) promotes synthesis of legiobactin, inner membrane LbtB aids in export of the siderophore, and outer membrane LbtU and inner membrane LbtC help mediate ferrilegiobactin uptake and assimilation. However, the past studies examined legiobactin contained within bacterial culture supernatants. By utilizing high-pressure liquid chromatography that incorporates hydrophilic interaction-based chemistry, we have now purified legiobactin from supernatants of virulent strain 130b that is suitable for detailed chemical analysis. High-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) revealed that the molecular mass of (protonated) legiobactin is 437.140 Da. On the basis of the results obtained from both MS analysis and various forms of nuclear magnetic resonance, we found that legiobactin is composed of two citric acid residues linked by a putrescine bridge and thus is identical in structure to rhizoferrin, a polycarboxylate-type siderophore made by many fungi and several unrelated bacteria. Both purified legiobactin and rhizoferrin obtained from the fungus Cunninghamella elegans were able to promote Fe3+ uptake by wild-type L. pneumophila as well as enhance growth of iron-starved bacteria. These results did not occur with 130b mutants lacking lbtU or lbtC, indicating that both endogenously made legiobactin and exogenously derived rhizoferrin are assimilated by L. pneumophila in an LbtU- and LbtC-dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3937-3945
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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