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Nabbing an Iron Bandit

Some pathogenic bacteria -- including strains that cause diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy -- get their daily dose of iron by swiping the essential nutrient from their host. To enact the heist, these bacteria spit out molecules called siderophores, shown here in light orange, that grab iron, shuttle it back to the bacterial membrane, and dole out the precise amount to keep the bacteria strong and healthy. By studying how these molecular “shuttles” bind and transport iron, Duke chemist Alvin Crumbliss, along with faculty collaborator Jiyong Hong and their students, hope to find a way to cripple the plundering bugs. (Image Credit: Grant Shuler)