• metal recognition;
  • metalloporphyrin;
  • antimicrobial compound;
  • Isd system;
  • isothermal titration calorimetry;
  • molecular dynamics simulations;
  • protein–heme interaction


The Isd (iron-regulated surface determinant) system of the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for the acquisition of heme from the host organism. We recently reported that the extracellular heme receptor IsdH-NEAT3 captures and transfers noniron antimicrobial porphyrins containing metals in oxidation state (III). However, it is unclear if geometric factors such as the size of the metal (ionic radius) affect binding and transfer of metalloporphyrins. We carried out an ample structural, functional, and thermodynamic analysis of the binding properties of antimicrobial indium(III)-porphyrin, which bears a much larger metal ion than the iron(III) of the natural ligand heme. The results demonstrate that the NEAT3 receptor recognizes the In(III)-containing PPIX in a manner very similar to that of heme. Site-directed mutagenesis identifies Tyr642 as the central element in the recognition mechanism as suggested from the crystal structures. Importantly, the NEAT3 receptor possesses the remarkable ability to capture dimers of metalloporphyrin. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal that IsdH-NEAT3 does not require conformational changes, or large rearrangements of the residues within its binding site, to accommodate the much larger (heme)2 ligand. We discuss the implications of these findings for the design of potent inhibitors against this family of key receptors of S. aureus.