Regulation of iron metabolism is critical for the survival of Salmonella Typhimurium in pasteurized milk

Greeshma Bharathan, Sunil Mundra, Dania Mustafa Darwich, Maitha Mohammad Saeed, Ahad Saeed Ali Al Hafri, Maitha Mohammed Saeed Musabbeh Alsalmi, Sajid Maqsood, Priti Mudgil, Séamus Fanning, Shabarinath Srikumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Salmonella is known to survive in raw/pasteurized milk and cause foodborne outbreaks. Lactoferrin, present in milk from all animal sources, is an iron-binding glycoprotein that limits the availability of iron to pathogenic bacteria. Despite the presence of lactoferrins, Salmonella can grow in milk obtained from different animal sources. However, the mechanism by which Salmonella overcomes iron scarcity induced by lactoferrin in milk is not evaluated yet. Salmonella employs the DNA binding transcriptional regulator Fur (ferric update regulator) to mediate iron uptake during survival in iron deplete conditions. To understand the importance of Fur in Salmonella milk growth, we profiled the growth of Salmonella Typhimurium Δfur (ST4/74Δfur) in both bovine and camel milk. ST4/74Δfur was highly inhibited in milk compared to wild-type ST4/74, confirming the importance of Fur mediated regulation of iron metabolism in Salmonella milk growth. We further studied the biology of ST4/74Δfur to understand the importance of iron metabolism in Salmonella milk survival. Using increasing concentrations of FeCl3, and the antibiotic streptonigrin we show that iron accumulates in the cytoplasm of ST4/74Δfur. We hypothesized that the accumulated iron could activate oxidative stress via Fenton's reaction leading to growth inhibition. However, the inhibition of ST4/74Δfur in milk was not due to Fenton's reaction, but due to the ‘iron scarce’ conditions of milk and microaerophilic incubation conditions which made the presence of the fur gene indispensable for Salmonella milk growth. Subsequently, survival studies of 14 other transcriptional mutants of ST4/74 in milk confirmed that RpoE-mediated response to extracytoplasmic stress is also important for the survival of Salmonella in milk. Though we have data only for fur and rpoE, many other Salmonella transcriptional factors could play important roles in the growth of Salmonella in milk, a theme for future research on Salmonella milk biology. Nevertheless, our data provide early insights into the biology of milk-associated Salmonella.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104326
JournalFood Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Bovine milk
  • Camel milk
  • Fur
  • Iron metabolism
  • Lactoferrin
  • Regulatory mutant
  • Salmonella Typhimurium
  • rpoE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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