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Plant Physiol. 2007 Jul;144(3):1407-15. Epub 2007 May 18.

Effects of iron deficiency on iron binding and internalization into acidic vacuoles in Dunaliella salina.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Uptake of iron in the halotolerant alga Dunaliella salina is mediated by a transferrin-like protein (TTf), which binds and internalizes Fe(3+) ions. Recently, we found that iron deficiency induces a large enhancement of iron binding, which is associated with accumulation of three other plasma membrane proteins that associate with TTf. In this study, we characterized the kinetic properties of iron binding and internalization and identified the site of iron internalization. Iron deficiency induces a 4-fold increase in Fe binding, but only 50% enhancement in the rate of iron uptake and also increases the affinity for iron and bicarbonate, a coligand for iron binding. These results indicate that iron deprivation leads to accumulation and modification of iron-binding sites. Iron uptake in iron-sufficient cells is preceded by an apparent time lag, resulting from prebound iron, which can be eliminated by unloading iron-binding sites. Iron is tightly bound to surface-exposed sites and hardly exchanges with medium iron. All bound iron is subsequently internalized. Accumulation of iron inhibits further iron binding and internalization. The vacuolar inhibitor bafilomycin inhibits iron uptake and internalization. Internalized iron was localized by electron microscopy within vacuolar structures that were identified as acidic vacuoles. Iron internalization is accompanied by endocytosis of surface proteins into these acidic vacuoles. A novel kinetic mechanism for iron uptake is proposed, which includes two pools of bound/compartmentalized iron separated by a rate-limiting internalization stage. The major parameter that is modulated by iron deficiency is the iron-binding capacity. We propose that excessive iron binding in iron-deficient cells serves as a temporary reservoir for iron that is subsequently internalized. This mechanism is particularly suitable for organisms that are exposed to large fluctuations in iron availability.

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