Microbiology Editor’s Choice: Vibrio cholerae; a siderophore pirate

Posted on December 1, 2020   by Microbiology Society

Each month, a manuscript published in our flagship journal Microbiology  is chosen by a member of the Editorial Board. This month, the paper is titled ‘Siderophore piracy enhances Vibrio cholerae environmental survival and pathogenesis’ and was chosen by Dr Andrew Preston.  

Free iron is restricted in many of the environments inhabited by bacteria, leading to the use of varied iron sequestration and uptake systems, such as the iron-scavenging siderophores. Vibrio cholerae not only produces its own siderophores but can utilise those produced by other bacteria. This has been demonstrated to enhance growth of V. cholerae in vitro under iron limited conditions. Byun and colleagues reveal that this ‘cross-feeding’ can occur in vivo. They show that growth of V. cholerae in iron limited conditions is enhanced by the presence of other siderophore-producing bacteria and using a mouse model iron-limited growth observed that V. cholerae was more abundant in the faeces of mice co-administered V. cholerae  and E. coli  MP1 compared to mice administered V. cholerae alone. This highlights the impact of polymicrobial environments for pathogens such as V. cholera and suggests that pathogen-host microbiome interactions may influence its infection of the human gut. 

Siderophore piracy enhances Vibrio cholerae environmental survival and pathogenesis 

In marine and human host environments, iron bioavailability is limited, presenting challenges to pathogenic bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae. Though bacteria are capable of utilising siderophores produced by other species, the significance of this with regards to bacterial survival and pathogenesis is unclear. Our data indicate that V. cholerae may acquire limited iron by utilisation of siderophores produced by indigenous microbes, thus improving their survival within diverse environments.

We spoke with the corresponding author Jay Zhu to find out more: 

What is your institution and how long have you been there? 

University of Pennsylvania; 15 years.

What is your research area? 

Virulence gene regulation in Vibrio cholerae and other bacterial pathogens during infection. 

What inspired you to research this topic?   

Surprising findings after tonnes of failed experiments. 

What would you be doing if you weren't a scientist? 

Photographer.

Follow Jay and co-author Jiandong Chen on Twitter.