Transition Metals and Virulence in Bacteria

Annual Review of Genetics
Lauren D Palmer, Eric P Skaar

Abstract

Transition metals are required trace elements for all forms of life. Due to their unique inorganic and redox properties, transition metals serve as cofactors for enzymes and other proteins. In bacterial pathogenesis, the vertebrate host represents a rich source of nutrient metals, and bacteria have evolved diverse metal acquisition strategies. Host metal homeostasis changes dramatically in response to bacterial infections, including production of metal sequestering proteins and the bombardment of bacteria with toxic levels of metals. In response, bacteria have evolved systems to subvert metal sequestration and toxicity. The coevolution of hosts and their bacterial pathogens in the battle for metals has uncovered emerging paradigms in social microbiology, rapid evolution, host specificity, and metal homeostasis across domains. This review focuses on recent advances and open questions in our understanding of the complex role of transition metals at the host-pathogen interface.

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