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  • 1 HAS-USZ Microbiology Research Group, Department of Microbiology, University of Szeged P.O. Box 533, H-6701 Szeged, Hungary
  • 2 Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Szeged P.O. Box 533, H-6701 Szeged, Hungary
  • 3 Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Szeged P.O. Box 533, H-6701 Szeged, Hungary
  • 4 HAS-USZ Microbiology Research Group, Department of Microbiology, University of Szeged Department of Clinical Microbiology P.O. Box 533, H-6701 Szeged, Hungary
  • 5 Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Szeged P.O. Box 533, H-6701 Szeged, Hungary
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Iron is an essential nutrient for most organisms because it serves as a catalytic cofactor in oxidation-reduction reactions. Iron is rather unavailable because it occurs in its insoluble ferric form in oxides and hydroxides, while in serum of mammalian hosts is highly bound to carrier proteins such as transferrin, so the free iron concentration is extremely low insufficient for microbial growth. Therefore, many organisms have developed different iron-scavenging systems for solubilizing ferric iron and transporting it into cells across the fungal membrane. There are three major mechanisms by which fungi can obtain iron from the host: (a) utilization of a high affinity iron permease to transport iron intracellularly, (b) production and secretion of low molecular weight iron-specific chelators (siderophores), (c) utilization of a hem oxygenase to acquire iron from hemin. Patients with elevated levels of available serum iron treated with iron chelator, deferoxamine to remedy iron overload conditions have an increased susceptibility of invasive zygomycosis. Presumably deferoxamine predisposes patients to Zygomycetes infections by acting as a siderophore. The frequency of zygomycosis is increasing in recent years and these infections respond very poorly to currently available antifungal agents, so new approaches to develop strategies to prevent and treat zygomycosis are urgently needed. Siderophores and iron-transport proteins have been suggested to function as virulence factors because the acquisition of iron is a crucial pathogenetic event. Biosynthesis and uptake of siderophores represent possible targets for antifungal therapy.

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