Mycobacterium marinum produces distinct mycobactin and carboxymycobactin siderophores to promote growth in broth and phagocytes

Cell Microbiol. 2020 May;22(5):e13163. doi: 10.1111/cmi.13163. Epub 2020 Feb 11.


Mycobacterium marinum is a model organism for pathogenic Mycobacterium species, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. These pathogens enter phagocytes and replicate within the Mycobacterium-containing vacuole, possibly followed by vacuole exit and growth in the host cell cytosol. Mycobacteria release siderophores called mycobactins to scavenge iron, an essential yet poorly soluble and available micronutrient. To investigate the role of M. marinum mycobactins, we purified by organic solvent extraction and identified by mass spectrometry the lipid-bound mycobactin (MBT) and the water-soluble variant carboxymycobactin (cMBT). Moreover, we generated by specialised phage transduction a defined M. marinum ΔmbtB deletion mutant predicted to be defective for mycobactin production. The M. marinum ΔmbtB mutant strain showed a severe growth defect in broth and phagocytes, which was partially complemented by supplying the mbtB gene on a plasmid. Furthermore, purified Fe-MBT or Fe-cMBT improved the growth of wild type as well as ΔmbtB mutant bacteria on minimal plates, but only Fe-cMBT promoted the growth of wild-type M. marinum during phagocyte infection. Finally, the intracellular growth of M. marinum ΔmbtB in Acanthamoeba castellanii amoebae was restored by coinfection with wild-type bacteria. Our study identifies and characterises the M. marinum MBT and cMBT siderophores and reveals the requirement of mycobactins for extra- and intracellular growth of the pathogen.

Keywords: Acanthamoeba; Dictyostelium; ABC transporter; amoeba; bacterial pathogenesis; carboxymycobactin; exochelin; iron acquisition; macrophage; mycobactin; pathogen vacuole; siderophore; tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba castellanii / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mice
  • Mycobacterium marinum / genetics
  • Mycobacterium marinum / metabolism*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Oxazoles / metabolism*
  • Peptide Synthases / genetics
  • Peptide Synthases / metabolism
  • Phagocytes / metabolism*
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Siderophores / biosynthesis*
  • Siderophores / genetics
  • Transcriptome
  • Vacuoles / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Oxazoles
  • Siderophores
  • mycobactins
  • Iron
  • MbtB protein, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Peptide Synthases