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J Cell Physiol. 1986 Aug;128(2):251-60.

Comparative studies of the binding and growth-supportive ability of mammalian transferrins in human cells.


The ability of human-derived cells in culture to bind, remove iron from, and grow in the presence of transferrins (Tf) isolated from the sera of species commonly included in tissue culture medium was investigated. Kinetic studies on HeLa cells reveal apparent first-order association rate constants of 0.43 min-1 for human Tf and 0.15 min-1 for equine Tf. Labeled chicken ovo-Tf and fetal bovine Tf were not recognized by the HeLa cells. Competition experiments with HeLa cells that use either isolated Tf or parent serum confirm these findings. Equilibrium binding experiments performed on HeLa cells at 37 degrees C in the presence of 2,4-dinitrophenol to prevent iron removal indicate 1 X 10(6) Tf bound/cell with a dissociation constant (K'D) of 28 nM for human Tf and 182 nM for equine Tf. Equilibrium binding performed at 0 degrees C to prevent endocytosis reveals 4.1-6.7 X 10(5) Tf binding sites/cell with a K'D of 8.3 nM for human Tf and 41.5 nM for equine Tf. Parallel experiments in normal human diploid fibroblast-like MRC-5 cells indicate expression of 0.82-2.78 X 10(5) Tf binding sites/cell with a K'D of 8.2 nM for human and 39.1 nM for equine Tf. Thus, the results of equilibrium binding studies of a more differentiated cell type are consistent with those found for HeLa cells. Fetal bovine Tf was found to compete weakly with labeled human Tf for human receptor on HeLa cells in a soluble receptor assay, with an approximately 500-fold excess needed to reduce binding to half maximal. Iron uptake experiments show an iron donating hierarchy where human greater than horse greater than calf, suggesting that the rate of iron uptake depends on the affinity of receptor for transferrin. Growth experiments involving HeLa cells in chemically defined serum-free medium demonstrate that bovine Tf will support growth as well as human Tf, but at concentrations much higher than are required of human Tf.

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