Precise deletions of cell surface-exposed loops of FhuA resulted in mutants of Escherichia coli with distinct phenotypes. Deletion of loop 3 or 11 inactivated ferrichrome transport activity. Deletion of loop 8 inactivated receptor activity for colicin M and the phages T1, T5, and phi80. The loop 7 deletion mutant was colicin M resistant but fully phage sensitive. The loop 4 deletion mutant was resistant to the TonB-dependent phages T1 and phi80 but fully sensitive to the TonB-independent phage T5. The phenotypes of the deletion mutants revealed important sites for the multiple FhuA transport and receptor activities. The ligand binding sites are nonidentical and are distributed among the entire exposed surface. Presumably, FhuA evolved as a ferrichrome transporter and was subsequently used as a receptor by the phages and colicin M, which selected the same as well as distinct loops as receptor sites.
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