A number of bacterial pathogens require the ZnuABC Zinc (Zn2+) transporter and/or a second Zn2+ transport system to overcome Zn2+ sequestration by mammalian hosts. Previously we have shown that in addition to ZnuABC, Yersinia pestis possesses a second Zn2+ transporter that involves components of the yersiniabactin (Ybt), siderophore-dependent iron transport system. Synthesis of the Ybt siderophore and YbtX, a member of the major facilitator superfamily, are both critical components of the second Zn2+ transport system. Here we demonstrate that a ybtX znu double mutant is essentially avirulent in mouse models of bubonic and pneumonic plague while a ybtX mutant retains high virulence in both plague models. While sequestration of host Zn is a key nutritional immunity factor, excess Zn appears to have a significant antimicrobial role in controlling intracellular bacterial survival. Here, we demonstrate that ZntA, a Zn2+ exporter, plays a role in resistance to Zn toxicity in vitro, but that a zntA zur double mutant retains high virulence in both pneumonic and bubonic plague models and survival in macrophages. We also confirm that Ybt does not directly bind Zn2+in vitro under the conditions tested. However, we detect a significant increase in Zn2+-binding ability of filtered supernatants from a Ybt+ strain compared to those from a strain unable to produce the siderophore, supporting our previously published data that Ybt biosynthetic genes are involved in the production of a secreted Zn-binding molecule (zincophore). Our data suggest that Ybt or a modified Ybt participate in or promote Zn-binding activity in culture supernatants and is involved in Zn acquisition in Y. pestis.

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Published in Metallomics, v. 9, issue 6, p. 757-772.

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2017

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

The document available for download is the authors' post-peer-review final draft of the article.

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This work was supported by Public Health Services Grant R01 AI33481 from the US National Institutes of Health and by startup funds from the University of Kentucky (to S.G.-T.). M.B.L. and T.T.V. were supported by Public Health Services grant R21 AI119557 from the US National Institutes of Health.

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