The Gram-negative bacterium Legionella pneumophila elaborates the siderophore legiobactin. We previously showed that cytoplasmic LbtA helps mediate legiobactin synthesis, innermembrane LbtB promotes export of legiobactin, and outer-membrane LbtU acts as the ferrisiderophore receptor. RT-PCR analyses now identified lbtC as an iron-repressed gene that is the final gene in an operon containing lbtA and lbtB. In silico analysis predicted that LbtC is an inner-membrane protein that belongs to the major facilitator superfamily (MFS). Although capable of normal growth in standard media, lbtC mutants were defective for growth on iron-depleted agar media. While producing normal levels of legiobactin, lbtC mutants were unable to utilize supplied legiobactin to stimulate growth on iron-depleted media and displayed an impaired ability to take up radiolabelled iron. All lbtC mutant phenotypes were complemented by reintroduction of an intact copy of lbtC. When a cloned copy of both lbtC and lbtU was introduced into a heterologous bacterium (Legionella longbeachae), the organism acquired the ability to utilize legiobactin to grow better on low-iron media. Together, these data indicate that LbtC is involved in the uptake of legiobactin, and based upon its predicted location is most likely the mediator of ferrilegiobactin transport across the inner membrane. The data are also a unique documentation of how an MFS protein can promote bacterial iron-siderophore import, standing in contrast to the vast majority of studies which have defined ABC-type permeases as the mediators of siderophore import across the Gram-negative inner membrane or the Gram-positive cytoplasmic membrane.
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