Metabolomic Analysis of Siderophore Cheater Mutants Reveals Metabolic Costs of Expression in Uropathogenic <i>Escherichia coli</i>

Bacterial siderophores are a group of chemically diverse, virulence-associated secondary metabolites whose expression exerts metabolic costs. A combined bacterial genetic and metabolomic approach revealed differential metabolomic impacts associated with biosynthesis of different siderophore structural families. Despite myriad genetic differences, the metabolome of a cheater mutant lacking a single set of siderophore biosynthetic genes more closely approximate that of a non-pathogenic K12 strain than its isogenic, uropathogen parent strain. Siderophore types associated with greater metabolomic perturbations are less common among human isolates, suggesting that metabolic costs influence success in a human population. Although different siderophores share a common iron acquisition function, our analysis shows how a metabolomic approach can distinguish their relative metabolic impacts in <i>E. coli</i>.