While zinc is an essential trace metal in biology, excess zinc is toxic to organisms. Previous studies have shown that zinc toxicity is associated with disruption of the (4Fe-4S] clusters in various dehydratases in Escherichia coli. Here, we report that the intracellular zinc overload in E. coli cells inhibits iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis without affecting the preassembled iron-sulfur clusters in proteins. Among the housekeeping iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins encoded by the gene cluster iscSUA-hscBA-fdx-iscX in E. coli cells, the scaffold IscU, the iron chaperone IscA, and ferredoxin have strong zinc binding activity in cells, suggesting that intracellular zinc overload inhibits iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis by binding to the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins. Mutations of the conserved cysteine residues to serine in IscA, IscU, or ferredoxin completely abolish the zinc binding activity of the proteins, indicating that zinc can compete with iron or iron-sulfur cluster binding in IscA, IscU, and ferredoxin and block iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis. Furthermore, intracellular zinc overload appears to emulate the slow-growth phenotype of the E. coli mutant cells with deletion of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins IscU, IscA, and ferredoxin. Our results suggest that intracellular zinc overload inhibits iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis by targeting the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins IscU, IscA, and ferredoxin in E. coli cells.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY
Ding, H. (2019). Zinc Toxicity and Iron-Sulfur Cluster Biogenesis in Escherichia coli. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, 85 (9) https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.01967-18