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EMBO J. 2003 May 1;22(9):1959-68.

Ferritins, iron uptake and storage from the bacterioferritin viewpoint.

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Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Av República, 2784-505 Oeiras, Portugal.


Ferritins constitute a broad superfamily of iron storage proteins, widespread in all domains of life, in aerobic or anaerobic organisms. Ferritins isolated from bacteria may be haem-free or contain a haem. In the latter case they are called bacterioferritins. The primary function of ferritins inside cells is to store iron in the ferric form. A secondary function may be detoxification of iron or protection against O(2) and its radical products. Indeed, for bacterioferritins this is likely to be their primary function. Ferritins and bacteroferritins have essentially the same architecture, assembling in a 24mer cluster to form a hollow, roughly spherical construction. In this review, special emphasis is given to the structure of the ferroxidase centres with native iron-containing sites, since oxidation of ferrous iron by molecular oxygen takes place in these sites. Although present in other ferritins, a specific entry route for iron, coupled with the ferroxidase reaction, has been proposed and described in some structural studies. Electrostatic calculations on a few selected proteins indicate further ion channels assumed to be an entry route in the later mineralization processes of core formation.

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