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Dalton Trans. 2009 Oct 28;(40):8616-25. doi: 10.1039/b910970f. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Iron(III) citrate speciation in aqueous solution.

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  • 1Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Division, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London, UK SE1 9NH.


Citrate is an iron chelator and it has been shown to be the major iron ligand in the xylem sap of plants. Furthermore, citrate has been demonstrated to be an important ligand for the non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) pool occurring in the plasma of individuals suffering from iron-overload. However, ferric citrate chemistry is complicated and a definitive description of its aqueous speciation at neutral pH remains elusive. X-Ray crystallography data indicates that the alcohol function of citrate (Cit4-) is involved in Fe(III) coordination and that deprotonation of this functional group occurs upon complex formation. The inability to include this deprotonation in the affinity constant calculations has been a major source of divergence between various reports of iron(III)-citrate affinity constants. However the recent determination of the alcoholic pKa of citric acid (H4Cit) renders the reassessment of the ferric citrate system possible. The aqueous speciation of ferric citrate has been investigated by mass spectrometry and EPR spectroscopy. It was observed that the most relevant species are a monoiron dicitrate species and dinuclear and trinuclear oligomeric complexes, the relative concentration of which depends on the solution pH value and the iron : citric acid molar ratio. Spectrophotometric titration was utilized for affinity constant determination and the formation constant for the biologically relevant [Fe(Cit)2]5- is reported for the first time.

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