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IscA is a key member of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly machinery in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms; however, the physiological function of IscA still remains elusive. In the present paper we report the in vivo evidence demonstrating the iron-binding activity of IscA in Escherichia coli cells. Supplement of exogenous iron (1 μM) in M9 minimal medium is sufficient to maximize the iron binding in IscA expressed in E. coli cells under aerobic growth conditions. In contrast, IscU, an iron-sulfur cluster assembly scaffold protein, or CyaY, a bacterial frataxin homologue, fails to bind any iron in E. coli cells under the same experimental conditions. Interestingly, the strong iron-binding activity of IscA is greatly diminished in E. coli cells under anaerobic growth conditions. Additional studies reveal that oxygen in medium promotes the iron binding in IscA, and that the iron binding in IscA in turn prevents formation of biologically inaccessible ferric hydroxide under aerobic conditions. Consistent with the differential iron-binding activity of IscA under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, we find that IscA and its paralogue SufA are essential for the iron-sulfur cluster assembly in E. coli cells under aerobic growth conditions, but not under anaerobic growth conditions. The results provide in vivo evidence that IscA may act as an iron chaperone for the biogenesis of iron-sulfur clusters in E. coli cells under aerobic conditions. © The Authors Journal compilation © 2010 Biochemical Society.

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Biochemical Journal

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