Human Metabolome-derived Cofactors Are Required for the Antibacterial Activity of Siderocalin in Urine

J Biol Chem. 2016 Dec 9;291(50):25901-25910. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M116.759183. Epub 2016 Oct 25.


In human urinary tract infections, host cells release the antimicrobial protein siderocalin (SCN; also known as lipocalin-2, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, or 24p3) into the urinary tract. By binding to ferric catechol complexes, SCN can sequester iron, a growth-limiting nutrient for most bacterial pathogens. Recent evidence links the antibacterial activity of SCN in human urine to iron sequestration and metabolomic variation between individuals. To determine whether these metabolomic associations correspond to functional Fe(III)-binding SCN ligands, we devised a biophysical protein binding screen to identify SCN ligands through direct analysis of human urine. This screen revealed a series of physiologic unconjugated urinary catechols that were able to function as SCN ligands of which pyrogallol in particular was positively associated with high urinary SCN activity. In a purified, defined culture system, these physiologic SCN ligands were sufficient to activate SCN antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli In the presence of multiple SCN ligands, native mass spectrometry demonstrated that SCN may preferentially combine different ligands to coordinate iron, suggesting that availability of specific ligand combinations affects in vivo SCN antibacterial activity. These results support a mechanistic link between the human urinary metabolome and innate immune function.

Keywords: Escherichia coli (E. coli); NGAL; host-pathogen interaction; infectious disease; iron; lipocalin 2; mass spectrometry (MS); siderocalin; siderophore; urinary tract infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / urine*
  • Carrier Proteins / immunology
  • Carrier Proteins / urine*
  • Catechols / immunology
  • Catechols / urine*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / urine*
  • Escherichia coli*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lipocalin-2
  • Metabolome / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Urinary Tract Infections / immunology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / urine*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Catechols
  • LCN2 protein, human
  • Lipocalin-2