Genetic requirements for Moraxella catarrhalis growth under iron-limiting conditions


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Iron sequestration by the human host is a first line defence against respiratory pathogens like Moraxella catarrhalis, which consequently experiences a period of iron starvation during colonization. We determined the genetic requirements for M. catarrhalis BBH18 growth during iron starvation using the high-throughput genome-wide screening technology genomic array footprinting (GAF). By subjecting a large random transposon mutant library to growth under iron-limiting conditions, mutants of the MCR_0996-rhlB-yggW operon, rnd, and MCR_0457 were negatively selected. Growth experiments using directed mutants confirmed the GAF phenotypes with ΔyggW (putative haem-shuttling protein) and ΔMCR_0457 (hypothetical protein) most severely attenuated during iron starvation, phenotypes which were restored upon genetic complementation of the deleted genes. Deletion of yggW resulted in similar attenuated phenotypes in three additional strains. Transcriptional profiles of ΔyggW and ΔMCR_0457 were highly altered with 393 and 192 differentially expressed genes respectively. In all five mutants, expression of nitrate reductase genes was increased and of nitrite reductase decreased, suggesting an impaired aerobic respiration. Alteration of iron metabolism may affect nasopharyngeal colonization as adherence of all mutants to respiratory tract epithelial cells was attenuated. In conclusion, we elucidated the genetic requirements for M. catarrhalis growth during iron starvation and characterized the roles of the identified genes in bacterial growth and host interaction.