The lac genes were inserted with phage Mu(Ap, lac) into the fhuA, fepA, cir and tonB genes which specify components of iron uptake systems. The expression of lac in all these operon fusions was controlled by the availability of iron to the cells, thereby facilitating a quick and simple measurement of the expression of the genes listed above. In an iron rich medium under anaerobic conditions all systems were strongly repressed. fhuA was depressed at higher iron concentration than was fepA or cir, and tonB was repressed only under anaerobic conditions and could be induced by iron limitation.
Mutants constitutive for the expression of β-galactosidase were selected in a fhuA-lac fusion strain. The outer membrane proteins Cir, FhuA, FecA, 76K and 83K were made constitutively in such mutant strains. Therefore, they were termed fur mutants. In these fur mutant strains, the synthesis of a 19K protein was reduced. Furthermore, it was found that transport of ferric enterochelin and ferrichrome was also constitutive in the fur mutant cells, and that ferric citrate uptake could be induced by only 10 μM citrate in the growth medium in contrast to wild-type cells in which at least 100 μM citrate was necessary. The fepA gene was concluded to be under an additional control, because it was not fully derepressed by the fur mutation.