Structural Biology of Bacterial Haemophores

Paolo Ascenzi, Alessandra di Masi, Loris Leboffe, Emanuela Frangipani, Marco Nardini, Cinzia Verde, Paolo Visca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron plays a key role in a wide range of metabolic and signalling functions representing an essential nutrient for almost all forms of life. However, the ferric form is hardly soluble, whereas the ferrous form is highly toxic. Thus, in biological fluids, most of the iron is sequestered in iron- or haem-binding proteins and the level of free iron is low, making haem and iron acquisition a challenge for pathogenic bacteria during infections. Although toxic to the host, free haem is a major and readily available source of iron for several pathogenic microorganisms. Both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria have developed several strategies to acquire free haem-Fe and protein-bound haem-Fe. Haemophores are a class of secreted and cell surface-exposed proteins promoting free-haem uptake, haem extraction from host haem proteins, and haem presentation to specific outer-membrane receptors that internalize the metal-porphyrins. Here, structural biology of bacterial haemophores is reviewed focusing on haem acquisition, haem internalization, and haem-degrading systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-176
Number of pages50
JournalAdvances in Microbial Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bacterial haemophores
  • Haem acquisition
  • Haem degradation
  • Haem internalization
  • Structure–function relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Physiology


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