In order to assimilate iron, Acinetobacter baumannii ATCC 19606T produces a siderophore named acinetobactin (Ab) that is composed of equimolar quantities of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHBA), L-threonine and N-hydroxyhistamine. Application of the Fur titration assay system to A. baumannii genomic libraries, followed by further cloning of the regions surrounding the candidate genes, led to the identification of the Ab cluster, which harbours the genetic determinants necessary for the biosynthesis and transport of the siderophore. However, an entA homologue essential for DHBA biosynthesis was not found in this cluster. Functions of potential biosynthetic genes inferred by homology studies suggested that the precursors, DHBA, L-threonine and N-hydroxyhistamine, are linked in steps resembling those of bacterial non-ribosomal peptide synthesis to form Ab. Genes responsible for the two-step biosynthesis of N-hydroxyhistamine from histidine were also identified in this cluster. Their genetic organization suggests that five genes involved in the transport system of ferric Ab into the cell cytosol form an operon. Construction of disruptants of some selected genes followed by phenotypic analysis supported their predicted biological functions. Interestingly, three additional genes probably involved in the intracellular release of iron from ferric Ab and the secretion of nascent Ab are contained in this cluster. Primer extension and RT-PCR analyses suggested that the Ab cluster, which includes 18 genes, is organized in seven transcriptional units originating from respective Fur-regulated promoter-operator regions.
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