Shigella species can use heme as the sole source of iron. In this work, the heme utilization locus of Shigella dysenteriae was cloned and characterized. A cosmid bank of S. dysenteriae serotype 1 DNA was constructed in an Escherichia coli siderophore synthesis mutant incapable of heme transport. A recombinant clone, pSHU12, carrying the heme utilization system of S. dysenteriae was isolated by screening on iron-poor medium supplemented with hemin. Transposon insertional mutagenesis and subcloning identified the region of DNA in pSHU12 responsible for the phenotype of heme utilization. Minicell analysis indicated that a 70-kDa protein encoded by this region was sufficient to allow heme utilization in E. coli. Synthesis of this protein, designated Shu (Shigella heme uptake), was induced by iron limitation. The 70-kDa protein is located in the outer membrane and binds heme, suggesting it is the S. dysenteriae heme receptor. Heme iron uptake was found to be TonB dependent in E. coli. Transformation of an E. coli hemA mutant with the heme utilization subclone, pSHU262, showed that heme could serve as a source of porphyrin as well as iron, indicating that the entire heme molecule is transported into the bacterial cell. DNA sequences homologous to shu were detected in strains of S. dysenteriae serotype 1 and E. coli O157:H7.
Growth of Shigella spp. in the presence of the bile salt deoxycholate or chenodeoxycholate enhanced the bacterial invasion of HeLa cells. Growth in the presence of other structurally similar bile salts or detergents had little or no effect. Deoxycholate-enhanced invasion was not observed when bacteria were exposed to deoxycholate at low temperatures or when chloramphenicol was added to the growth medium, indicating that bacterial growth and protein synthesis are required. Increased invasion is associated with the presence of an intact Shigella virulence plasmid and is correlated with increased secretion of a set of proteins, including the Ipa proteins, to the outer membrane and into the growth medium. The increased invasion induced by the bile salts appears to be due to increased adherence. The enhanced adherence was specific to Shigella spp., since the enteroinvasive Escherichia coli strains tested did not exhibit the effect in response to growth in bile salts.