Author(s): Ellison RT rd, Giehl TJ, LaForce FM
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Abstract Many studies have shown that lactoferrin and transferrin have antimicrobial activity against gram-negative bacteria, but a mechanism of action has not been defined. We hypothesized that the iron-binding proteins could affect the gram-negative outer membrane in a manner similar to that of the chelator EDTA. The ability of lactoferrin and transferrin to release radiolabeled lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from a UDP-galactose epimerase-deficient Escherichia coli mutant and from wild-type Salmonella typhimurium strains was tested. Initial studies in barbital-acetate buffer showed that EDTA and lactoferrin cause significant release of LPS from all three strains. Further studies found that LPS release was blocked by iron saturation of lactoferrin, occurred between pH 6 and 7.5, was comparable for bacterial concentrations from 10(4) to 10(7) CFU/ml, and increased with increasing lactoferrin concentrations. Studies using Hanks balanced salt solution lacking calcium and magnesium showed that transferrin also could cause LPS release. Additionally, both lactoferrin and transferrin increased the antibacterial effect of a subinhibitory concentration of rifampin, a drug excluded by the bacterial outer membrane. This work demonstrates that these iron-binding proteins damage the gram-negative outer membrane and alter bacterial outer membrane permeability.
This article was published in Infect Immun
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine