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Biol Chem. 2002 Mar-Apr;383(3-4):489-502.

The chelatable iron pool in living cells: a methodically defined quantity.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Universitätsklinikum Essen, Germany.


A very small, predominantly cytosolic pool of iron ions plays the central role in the cellular iron metabolism. It links the cellular iron uptake with the insertion of the metal in iron storage proteins and other essential iron-containing molecules. Furthermore, this transit ('labile') pool is essentially involved in the pathogenesis of a number of diseases. Due to its high physiological and pathophysiological significance, numerous methods for its characterization have been developed during the last five decades. Most of these methods, however, influence the size and nature of the transit iron pool artificially, as they are not applicable to viable biological material. Recently, fluorescence spectroscopic methods for measurements within viable cells have become available. Although these methods avoid the artifacts of previous methods, studies using fluorescent iron indicators revealed that the 'intracellular transit iron pool', which is methodically assessed as 'chelatable iron', is substantially defined by the method and/or the iron-chelating indicator applied for its detection, since the iron ions are bound to a large number of different ligands in different metabolic compartments. A more comprehensive characterization of the nature and the role of the thus not uniform cellular transit iron pool therefore requires parallel employment of different indicator molecules, which clearly differ in their intracellular distribution and their physico-chemical characteristics.

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