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Kidney Int Suppl. 1999 Mar;69:S2-11.

Cellular iron metabolism.

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Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital and Department of Physiology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Iron is essential for oxidation-reduction catalysis and bioenergetics, but unless appropriately shielded, iron plays a key role in the formation of toxic oxygen radicals that can attack all biological molecules. Hence, specialized molecules for the acquisition, transport (transferrin), and storage (ferritin) of iron in a soluble nontoxic form have evolved. Delivery of iron to most cells, probably including those of the kidney, occurs following the binding of transferrin to transferrin receptors on the cell membrane. The transferrin-receptor complexes are then internalized by endocytosis, and iron is released from transferrin by a process involving endosomal acidification. Cellular iron storage and uptake are coordinately regulated post-transcriptionally by cytoplasmic factors, iron-regulatory proteins 1 and 2 (IRP-1 and IRP-2). Under conditions of limited iron supply, IRP binding to iron-responsive elements (present in 5' untranslated region of ferritin mRNA and 3' untranslated region of transferrin receptor mRNA) blocks ferritin mRNA translation and stabilizes transferrin receptor mRNA. The opposite scenario develops when iron in the transit pool is plentiful. Moreover, IRP activities/levels can be affected by various forms of "oxidative stress" and nitric oxide. The kidney also requires iron for metabolic processes, and it is likely that iron deficiency or excess can cause disturbed function of kidney cells. Transferrin receptors are not evenly distributed throughout the kidney, and there is a cortical-to-medullary gradient in heme biosynthesis, with greatest activity in the cortex and least in the medulla. This suggests that there are unique iron/heme metabolism features in some kidney cells, but the specific aspects of iron and heme metabolism in the kidney are yet to be explained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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