A variety of natural and synthetic siderophores capable of supporting the growth of Escherichia coli K-12 on iron-limited media also protect strain RW193+ (tonA+ ent-) from the killing action of colicins B, V, and Ia. Protective activity falls into two categories. The first, characteristic of enterobactin protection against colicin B and ferrichrome protection against colicin M, has properties of a specific receptor competition between the siderophore and the colicin. Thus, enterobactin specifically protects against colicin B in fes- mutants (able to accumulate but unable to utilize enterobactin) as predicted by our proposal that the colicin B receptor functions in the specific binding for uptake of enterobactin (Wayne and Neilands, 1975). Similarly ferrichrome specifically protects against colicin M in SidA mutants (defective in hydroxamate siderophore utilization). The second category of protective response, characteristic of the more general siderophore inhibition of colicins B, V, and Ia, requires the availability or metabolism of siderophore iron. Thus, enterobactin protects against colicins V and Ia, but only when the colicin indicator strain is fes+, and hydroxamate siderophores inhibit colicins B, V, and Ia, but only when the colicin indicator strain is SidA+. Moreover, ferrichrome inhibits colicins B, V, and Ia, yet chromium (III) deferriferrichrome is inactive, and ferrichrome itself does not prevent adsorption of colicin Ia receptor material in vitro. Although the nonspecific protection against colicins B, V, and Ia requires iron, the availability of siderophore iron for cell growth is not sufficient to bring about protection. None of the siderophores tested protect cells against the killing action of colicin E1 or K, or against the energy poisons azide, 2, 4-dinitrophenol, and carbonylcyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone. We suggest that nonspecific siderophore protection against colicins B, V, and Ia may be due either to an induction of membrane alterations in response to siderophore iron metabolism or to a direct interference by siderophore iron with some unknown step in colicin action subsequent to adsorption
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