A novel heme transporter from the energy coupling factor family is vital for group a streptococcus colonization and infections

Nilanjana Chatterjee, Laura C.C. Cook, Kristin V. Lyles, Hong Anh T. Nguyen, Darius J. Devlin, Lamar S. Thomas, Zehava Eichenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Group A streptococcus (GAS) produces millions of infections worldwide, including mild mucosal infections, postinfection sequelae, and life-threatening invasive diseases. During infection, GAS readily acquires nutritional iron from host heme and hemoproteins. Here, we identified a new heme importer, named SiaFGH, and investigated its role in GAS pathophysiology. The SiaFGH proteins belong to a group of transporters with an unknown ligand from the recently described family of energy coupling factors (ECFs). A siaFGH deletion mutant exhibited high streptonigrin resistance compared to the parental strain, suggesting that iron ions or an iron complex is the likely ligand. Iron uptake and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) studies showed that the loss of siaFGH did not impact GAS import of ferric or ferrous iron, but the mutant was impaired in using hemoglobin iron for growth. Analysis of cells growing on hemoglobin iron revealed a substantial decrease in the cellular heme content in the mutant compared to the complemented strain. The induction of the siaFGH genes in trans resulted in the induction of heme uptake. The siaFGH mutant exhibited a significant impairment in murine models of mucosal colonization and systemic infection. Together, the data show that SiaFGH is a new type of heme importer that is key for GAS use of host hemoproteins and that this system is imperative for bacterial colonization and invasive infection. IMPORTANCE ECF systems are new transporters that take up various vitamins, cobalt, or nickel with a high affinity. Here, we establish the GAS SiaFGH proteins as a new ECF module that imports heme and demonstrate its importance in virulence. SiaFGH is the first heme ECF system described in bacteria. We identified homologous systems in the genomes of related pathogens from the Firmicutes phylum. Notably, GAS and other pathogens that use a SiaFGH-type importer rely on host hemoproteins for a source of iron during infection. Hence, recognizing the function of this noncanonical ABC transporter in heme acquisition and the critical role that it plays in disease has broad implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00205-20
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • ECF transporters
  • Heme uptake
  • S. pyogenes
  • Virulence determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'A novel heme transporter from the energy coupling factor family is vital for group a streptococcus colonization and infections'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this