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Cytosolic iron metabolism in unicellular eukaryotic pathogens

Final Report Summary - PATHO IRON (Cytosolic iron metabolism in unicellular eukaryotic pathogens)

Iron is an essential nutrient for virtually all living organisms and host iron availability plays a critical role in the host-pathogen relationship. However, our knowledge about iron metabolism in eukaryotic pathogenic microorganisms is poor; it is not known, how iron is stored in the cell or how it is utilised. This project was focused on iron metabolism in different unicellular microorganisms such as Trichomonas vaginalis and Candida albicans. In these organisms we have found out that unlike in different cellular organelles, cytosolic iron is present in a non-protein bound form. Such new insights are not only important in their own right but may lead to new chemotherapeutic strategies.

During the tenure of the project, an international collaboration was initiated focused on a recently discovered photosynthetic marine microorganism Chromera velia. We have described in C. velia cells a novel two-step model of iron uptake in which aqueous ferric ions are first concentrated in the cell wall before being taken up by the cells without prior reduction, by a thermodynamically controlled mechanism. It is of particular interest to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying acquisition of iron by marine phytoplankton and our results may help to determine which iron sources are preferentially assimilated with regard to the yield of carbon fixation. Moreover, C. velia is closely related to Apicomplexan parasites including the causative agent of malaria. Our investigation of biochemical processes of C. velia will help us to understand how photosynthetic algae evolved into the fully parasitic Apicomplexa and may lead to new therapeutic strategies.