The role of siderophores in iron acquisition by photosynthetic marine microorganisms

Biometals. 2009 Aug;22(4):659-69. doi: 10.1007/s10534-009-9235-2. Epub 2009 Apr 3.


The photosynthetic picocyanobacteria and eukaryotic microorganisms that inhabit the open ocean must be able to supply iron for their photosynthetic and respiratory needs from the subnanomolar concentrations available in seawater. Neither group appears to produce siderophores, although some coastal cyanobacteria do. This is interpreted as an adaptation to the dilute oceanic environment rather than a phylogenetic constraint, since there are cases in which related taxa from different environments have the capacity to produce siderophores. Most photosynthetic marine microorganisms are presumably, however, capable of accessing iron from strong chelates since the majority of dissolved iron in seawater is complexed by organic ligands, including siderophores. Rather than direct internalization of siderophores and other iron chelates, marine organisms primarily appear to use uptake pathways that involve a reduction step to free bound iron, closely coupled with transport into the cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Marine Biology
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Structure
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Seawater / microbiology*
  • Siderophores / metabolism
  • Siderophores / physiology*
  • Water Microbiology


  • Siderophores
  • Iron