Emerging strategies in microbial haem capture

Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jan;39(1):1-11. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02231.x.


Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria have evolved novel strategies to obtain iron from host haem-sequestering proteins. These include the production of specific outer membrane receptors that bind directly to host haem-sequestering proteins, secreted haem-binding proteins (haemophores) that bind haem/haemoglobin/haemopexin and deliver the complex to a bacterial cell surface receptor and bacterial proteases that degrade haem-sequestering proteins. Once removed from haem-sequestering proteins, haem may be transported via the bacterial outer membrane receptor into the cell. Recent studies have begun to define the steps by which haem is removed from bacterial haem proteins and transported into the cell. This review describes recent work on the discovery and characterization of these systems. Reference is also made to the transport of haem in serum (via haemoglobin, haemoglobin/haptoglobin, haemopexin, albumin and lipoproteins) and to mechanisms of iron removal from the haem itself (probably via a haem oxygenase pathway in which the protoporphyrin ring is degraded). Haem protein-receptor interactions are discussed in terms of the criteria that govern protein-protein interactions in general, and connections between haem transport and the emerging field of metal transport via metallochaperones are outlined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Hemopexin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Hemoglobins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Serum Albumin
  • Heme
  • Hemopexin