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A bacteria-specific 2[4Fe-4S] ferredoxin is essential in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Sylvie Elsen123, Georgios Efthymiou4, Panagiotis Peteinatos5, George Diallinas5, Panayotis Kyritsis4 and Jean-Marc Moulis367*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratoire de Biochimie et Biophysique des Systèmes Intégrés; iRTSV, CEA, Grenoble, France

2 BBSI, CNRS, Grenoble, France

3 Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France

4 Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Athens, Panepistimioupolis, Athens 15771, Greece

5 Department of Botany, Faculty of Biology, University of Athens, Panepistimioupolis, Athens 15781, Greece

6 Laboratoire de Chimie et Biologie des Métaux, iRTSV, CEA, Grenoble, France

7 LCBM, CNRS, Grenoble, France

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:271  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-271

Published: 28 October 2010



Ferredoxins are small iron-sulfur proteins belonging to all domains of life. A sub-group binds two [4Fe-4S] clusters with unequal and extremely low values of the reduction potentials. These unusual properties are associated with two specific fragments of sequence. The functional importance of the very low potential ferredoxins is unknown.


A bioinformatic screening of the sequence features defining very low potential 2[4Fe-4S] ferredoxins has revealed the almost exclusive presence of the corresponding fdx gene in the Proteobacteria phylum, without occurrence in Archaea and Eukaryota. The transcript was found to be monocistronic in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and not part of an operon in most bacteria. Only fdx genes of bacteria which anaerobically degrade aromatic compounds belong to operons. As this pathway is not present in all bacteria having very low potential 2[4Fe-4S] ferredoxins, these proteins cannot exclusively be reductants of benzoyl CoA reductases. Expression of the ferredoxin gene did not change in response to varying growth conditions, including upon macrophage infection or aerobic growth with 4-hydroxy benzoate as carbon source. However, it increased along the growth curve in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and in Escherichia coli. The sequence immediately 5' upstream of the coding sequence contributed to the promotor activity. Deleting the fdx gene in Pseudomonas aeruginosa abolished growth, unless a plasmid copy of the gene was provided to the deleted strain.


The gene of the very low potential 2[4Fe-4S] ferredoxin displays characteristics of a housekeeping gene, and it belongs to the minority of genes that are essential in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These data identify a new potential antimicrobial target in this and other pathogenic Proteobacteria.