WITHHOLDING AND EXCHANGING IRON: Interactions Between Erwinia spp. and Their Plant Hosts

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 1999;37:307-334. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.37.1.307.


The critical role of iron in plant host-parasite relationships has been elucidated in diseases as different as the soft rot and fire blight incited by Erwinia chrysanthemi and E. amylovora, respectively. As in animal infections, the role of iron and its ligands in the virulence of plant pathogens seems to be more subtle than might be expected, and is intimately related to the life cycle of the pathogen within its host. This review discusses how iron, because of its unique position in biological systems, controls the activities of these plant pathogens. Molecular studies illustrating the key question of iron acquisition and homeostasis during pathogenesis are described. The production of siderophores by pathogens not only represents a powerful strategy to acquire iron from host tissues but may also act as a protective agent against iron toxicity. The need of the host to bind and possibly sequester the metal during pathogenesis is another central issue. Possible modes of iron competition between plant host and pathogen are considered.