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J Mol Biol. 1999 Nov 19;294(1):239-45.

The hemochromatosis protein HFE competes with transferrin for binding to the transferrin receptor.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, 1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


HFE is a class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-related protein that is mutated in patients with the iron overload disease hereditary hemochromatosis. HFE binds to transferrin receptor (TfR), the receptor used by cells to obtain iron in the form of diferric transferrin (Fe-Tf). Previous studies demonstrated that HFE and Fe-Tf can bind simultaneously to TfR to form a ternary complex, and that membrane-bound or soluble HFE binding to cell surface TfR results in a reduction in the affinity of TfR for Fe-Tf. We studied the inhibition by soluble HFE of the interaction between soluble TfR and Fe-Tf using radioactivity-based and biosensor-based assays. The results demonstrate that HFE inhibits the TfR:Fe-Tf interaction by binding at or near the Fe-Tf binding site on TfR, and that the Fe-Tf:TfR:HFE ternary complex consists of one Fe-Tf and one HFE bound to a TfR homodimer.

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