The role of siderophores in iron acquisition by photosynthetic marine microorganisms

Brian M. Hopkinson, Francois M. M. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


The photosynthetic picocyanobacteria and eukaryotic microorganisms that inhabit the open ocean must be able to supply iron for their photosynthetic and respiratory needs from the subnanomolar concentrations available in seawater. Neither group appears to produce siderophores, although some coastal cyanobacteria do. This is interpreted as an adaptation to the dilute oceanic environment rather than a phylogenetic constraint, since there are cases in which related taxa from different environments have the capacity to produce siderophores. Most photosynthetic marine microorganisms are presumably, however, capable of accessing iron from strong chelates since the majority of dissolved iron in seawater is complexed by organic ligands, including siderophores. Rather than direct internalization of siderophores and other iron chelates, marine organisms primarily appear to use uptake pathways that involve a reduction step to free bound iron, closely coupled with transport into the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-669
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Metals and Alloys
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Biomaterials


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Iron uptake
  • Ocean
  • Phytoplankton
  • Siderophores


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