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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 Mar;63(5):591-600.

Cellular regulation and molecular interactions of the ferritins.

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  • 1Center for BioIron at CHORI (Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland), 5700 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, California 94609, USA.


Controlling iron/oxygen chemistry in biology depends on multiple genes, regulatory messenger RNA (mRNA) structures, signaling pathways and protein catalysts. Ferritin, a protein nanocage around an iron/oxy mineral, centralizes the control. Complementary DNA (antioxidant responsive element/Maf recognition element) and mRNA (iron responsive element) responses regulate ferritin synthesis rates. Multiple iron-protein interactions control iron and oxygen substrate movement through the protein cage, from dynamic gated pores to catalytic sites related to di-iron oxygenase cofactor sites. Maxi-ferritins concentrate iron for the bio-synthesis of iron/heme proteins, trapping oxygen; bacterial mini-ferritins, DNA protection during starvation proteins, reverse the substrate roles, destroying oxidants, trapping iron and protecting DNA. Ferritin is nature's unique and conserved approach to controlled, safe use of iron and oxygen, with protein synthesis in animals adjusted by dual, genetic DNA and mRNA sequences that selectively respond to iron or oxidant signals and link ferritin to proteins of iron, oxygen and antioxidant metabolism.

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