Genetic evidence that Neisseria gonorrhoeae produces specific receptors for transferrin and lactoferrin
Transferrin (TF) and lactoferrin (LF) are probably the major sources of iron (Fe) for Neisseria gonorrhoeae in vivo. We isolated mutants of N. gonorrhoeae FA19 that were unable to grow with Fe bound to either TF (TF-) or LF (LF-) or to both TF and LF ([TF LF]-). The amount of Fe internalized by each of the mutants was reduced to background levels from the relevant iron source(s). The wild-type parent strain exhibited saturable specific binding of TF and LF; receptor activity was induced by Fe starvation. The TF(-)-specific or LF(-)-specific mutants were almost completely lacking in receptor activity for TF or LF, respectively, whereas the [TF LF]- mutants bound both TF and LF as well as the wild-type strain. All mutants utilized citrate and heme normally as Fe sources. These results demonstrate that ability to bind TF or LF is essential for gonococci to scavenge appreciable amounts of Fe from these sources in vitro. In addition, the TF and LF Fe acquisition pathways are linked by the mutual use of a nonreceptor gene product that is essential to Fe scavenging from both of these sources; this gene product is not required for Fe acquisition from other sources.