Uptake and Intracellular Metabolism of Metals

The importance of metals for the survival of microorganisms is best demonstrated on iron. Phytoplankton contributes to nearly 50% of the primary production, yet waters of the oceans contain limiting concentrations of several essential nutrients, especially iron, an element that is required in particular abundance by photosynthetic organisms. Iron also plays an important role in host-pathogen relationship. Many pathogens are highly dependent on a sufficient supply of iron and take up this metal by multiple and divergent pathways from the host. The activation and expression of such microbial iron acquisition systems is linked to their pathogenicity and proliferation. Thus the withholding of iron is an effective antimicrobial defence strategy of the host. Our project is focused on the characterization of nutrition requirements, mechanism of uptake and intracellular metabolism of metals, mainly iron and copper and identification of molecules involved in these processes. Research includes metabolism specific for pathogenic organisms (parasitic protists) and strategies necessary for life in nutritionally limited environment (unicellular algae). As a model organism we are using Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Tentative model of iron uptake by marine microalgae.

Robert Sutak et al. Plant Physiol. 2012;160:2271-2284

© 2012 by American Society of Plant Biologists

Proposed model of iron uptake by the bovine parasite Tritrichomonas foetus.

Robert Sutak et al. Trends Microbiol. 2008;16(6):261-8

© 2008 Elsevier Ltd. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Visualization of selected proteins within mitochondria of protists Naegleria gruberi and Trypanosoma brucei.