Biomimetic Enterobactin Analogue Mediates Iron-Uptake and Cargo Transport into E. coli and P. aeruginosa

17 December 2020, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The design, synthesis and biological evaluation of the artificial enterobactin analogue EntKL and several fluorophore-conjugates thereof are described. EntKL provides an attachment point for cargos such as fluorophores or antimicrobial payloads. Corresponding conjugates are recognized by outer membrane siderophore receptors of Gram-negative pathogens and retain the natural hydrolyzability of the tris-lactone backbone, known to be key for uptake into the cytosol. Initial density-functional theory (DFT) calculations of the free energies of solvation (ΔG(sol)) and relaxed Fe-O force constants of the corresponding [Fe-EntKL]3- complexes indicated a similar iron binding constant compared to natural enterobactin (Ent). The synthesis of EntKL was achieved via an iterative assembly based on a 3-hydroxylysine building block over 14 steps with an overall yield of 3%. A series of growth recovery assays under iron-limiting conditions with Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa mutant strains that are defective in natural siderophore synthesis revealed a potent concentration-dependent growth promoting effect of EntKL similar to natural Ent. Additionally, four cargo-conjugates differing in molecular size were able to restore growth of E. coli indicating an uptake into the cytosol. P. aeruginosa displayed a stronger uptake promiscuity as six different cargo-conjugates were found to restore growth under iron-limiting conditions. Imaging studies utilizing BODIPYFL-conjugates, demonstrated the ability of EntKL to overcome the Gram-negative outer membrane permeability barrier and thus deliver molecular cargos via the bacterial iron transport machinery of E. coli and P. aeruginosa.


siderophore conjugates
molecular imaging
cargo delivery
Gram-negative bacteria

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information EntKL ChemRxiv


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