The interplay between iron and zinc metabolism in Aspergillus fumigatus

Fungal Genet Biol. 2009 Sep;46(9):707-13. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2009.05.003. Epub 2009 May 19.


Zinc plays a critical role in a diverse array of biochemical processes. However, excess of zinc is deleterious to cells. Therefore, cells require finely tuned homeostatic mechanisms to balance uptake and storage of zinc. Here we show that iron starvation affects zinc metabolism by downregulating expression of the plasma membrane zinc importer encoding zrfB and upregulating the putative vacuolar zinc transporter-encoding zrcA in Aspergillus fumigatus. Nevertheless, the zinc content of iron-starved mycelia exceeded that of iron replete mycelia, possibly due to unspecific metal uptake induced by iron starvation. In agreement with increased zinc excess and zinc toxicity during iron starvation, deficiency in siderophore-mediated high-affinity iron uptake caused hypersensitivity to zinc. Moreover, an increase of zinc uptake by conditional overexpression of zrfB was more toxic under iron depleted compared to iron replete conditions. This deregulated zinc uptake under iron starvation caused a decrease in heme production and an increase in protoporphyrin IX accumulation. Furthermore, zinc excess impaired production of the extracellular siderophore triacetylfusarinine C but not the intracellular siderophore ferricrocin. Taken together, these data demonstrate a fine tuned coordination of zinc and iron metabolism in A. fumigatus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus fumigatus / genetics
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Ferric Compounds / metabolism
  • Ferrichrome / analogs & derivatives
  • Ferrichrome / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Heme / biosynthesis
  • Homeostasis
  • Hydroxamic Acids / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Mycelium / metabolism
  • Protoporphyrins / metabolism
  • RNA, Fungal / analysis
  • RNA, Fungal / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • Protoporphyrins
  • RNA, Fungal
  • Ferrichrome
  • ferricrocin
  • Heme
  • N,N',N''-triacetylfusarinine C
  • protoporphyrin IX
  • Iron
  • Zinc