Submitted to: Critical Reviews in Microbiology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: October 21, 2004
Publication Date: August 20, 2004
Citation: Smith, J.L. 2004. Physiological role ferritin-like compounds in bacteria. Critical Reviews in Microbiology. 30:173-185. Technical Abstract: Iron, as the ferrous or ferric ion, is essential for the life processes of all eukaryotes and most prokaryotes; however, the element is toxic when in excess of that needed for cellular homeostasis. Ferrous ions can react with metabolically generated hydrogen peroxide to yield toxic hydroxyl radicals that in turn degrade lipids, DNA and other cellular biomolecules. Mechanisms have evolved in living systems for iron detoxification and for the removal of excess ferrous ions from the cytosol. These detoxification mechanisms involve the oxidation of excess ferrous ions to the ferric state and storage of the ferric ions in ferritin-like proteins. There are at least three types of ferritin-like proteins in bacteria: bacterial ferritin, bacterioferritin and dodecameric ferritin. These bacterial proteins are related to the ferritins found in eukaryotes. The structure and physical characteristics of the ferritin-like compounds have been elucidated in several bacteria. Unfortunately, the physiological roles of the bacterial ferritin-like compounds have been less thoroughly studied. A few studies conducted with mutants indicated that ferritin-like compounds can protect bacterial cells from iron-overload, serve as an iron source when iron is limited, protect the bacterial cells against oxidative stress and/or protect DNA against enzymatic or oxidative attack. There is very little information available concerning the roles that ferritin-like compounds might play in the survival of bacteria in food, water, soil or eukaryotic host environments.