Iron is required for many cellular processes, but can be toxic at high concentrations. Thus iron homeostasis is strictly regulated so that iron acquisition, storage, and consumption are geared to iron availability, and that intracellular levels of free iron do not reach toxic levels. Recently, the roles of manganese and its control in cells have been investigated, and it is becoming clear that some aspects of the metabolism of iron and manganese are interrelated.
Control of bacterial iron homeostasis by manganese. PNAS USA May 24 2010. doi: 10.1073/pnas.100234210
Perception and response to nutritional iron availability by bacteria are essential to control cellular iron homeostasis. The Irr protein from Bradyrhizobium japonicum senses iron through the status of heme biosynthesis to globally regulate iron-dependent gene expression. Heme binds directly to Irr to trigger its degradation. Here, we show that severe manganese limitation created by growth of a Mn2+ transport mutant in manganese-limited media resulted in a cellular iron deficiency. In wild-type cells, Irr levels were attenuated under manganese limitation, resulting in reduced promoter occupancy of target genes and altered iron-dependent gene expression. Irr levels were high regardless of manganese availability in a heme-deficient mutant, indicating that manganese normally affects heme-dependent degradation of Irr. Manganese altered the secondary structure of Irr in vitro and inhibited binding of heme to the protein. We propose that manganese limitation destabilizes Irr under low-iron conditions by lowering the threshold of heme that can trigger Irr degradation. The findings implicate a mechanism for the control of iron homeostasis by manganese in a bacterium.