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J Inorg Biochem. 1992 Aug 15-Sep;47(3-4):147-60.

New perspectives on the structure and function of transferrins.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Structure-function relationships for transferrins are discussed in the light of recent X-ray crystal structure determinations. A common folding pattern into two lobes, each comprising two domains is adopted; this allows the tight, but reversible binding of iron. Uptake and release of iron involve substantial domain movements which open and close the binding clefts. The iron binding sites are similar and the key role of the CO3(2-) anion bound with each Fe3+ can now be understood; structural differences near the iron binding sites suggest reasons for the different binding properties of serum transferrin and lactoferrin. The glycan moieties do not appear to affect the protein structure or metal binding properties; they are not clearly seen in the X-ray analyses but have been modelled. The accommodation of different metals and anions is illustrated by the crystal structures of Cu2+ and oxalate-substituted lactoferrins; Al3+ binding is of particular interest. New results on transferrin-receptor interactions with transferrin, and melanotransferrin and an invertebrate transferrin (both of which have defective C-terminal binding sites), emphasize possible functional differences between the two lobes. The availability of site-specific mutants of both transferrin and lactoferrin now offers the opportunity to probe the structural determinants of iron binding, iron release, and receptor binding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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