Comparative genomics of iron-transporting systems in Bacillus cereus strains and impact of iron sources on growth and biofilm formation

Hasmik Hayrapetyan, Roland Siezen, Tjakko Abee*, Masja Nierop Groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Iron is an important element for bacterial viability, however it is not readily available in most environments. We studied the ability of 20 undomesticated food isolates of Bacillus cereus and two reference strains for capacity to use different (complex) iron sources for growth and biofilm formation. Studies were performed in media containing the iron scavenger 2,2-Bipyridine. Transcriptome analysis using B. cereus ATCC 10987 indeed showed upregulation of predicted iron transporters in the presence of 2,2-Bipyridine, confirming that iron was depleted upon its addition. Next, the impact of iron sources on growth performance of the 22 strains was assessed and correlations between growth stimulation and presence of putative iron transporter systems in the genome sequences were analyzed. All 22 strains effectively used Fe citrate and FeCl3 for growth, and possessed genes for biosynthesis of the siderophore bacillibactin, whereas seven strains lacked genes for synthesis of petrobactin. Hemoglobin could be used by all strains with the exception of one strain that lacked functional petrobactin and IlsA systems. Hemin could be used by the majority of the tested strains (19 of 22). Notably, transferrin, ferritin, and lactoferrin were not commonly used by B. cereus for growth, as these iron sources could be used by 6, 3, and 2 strains, respectively. Furthermore, biofilm formation was found to be affected by the type of iron source used, including stimulation of biofilms at liquid-air interphase (FeCl3 and Fe citrate) and formation of submerged type biofilms (hemin and lactoferrin). Our results show strain variability in the genome-encoded repertoire of iron-transporting systems and differences in efficacy to use complex iron sources for growth and biofilm formation. These features may affect B. cereus survival and persistence in specific niches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number842
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Bacillus cereus
  • Biofilm formation
  • Complex iron sources
  • Genotypes
  • Growth
  • Iron transport


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