Send to

Choose Destination
Biochemistry. 2005 Nov 29;44(47):15451-60.

Composition of pH-sensitive triad in C-lobe of human serum transferrin. Comparison to sequences of ovotransferrin and lactoferrin provides insight into functional differences in iron release.

Author information

Department of Biochemistry, University of Vermont, College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


The transferrins (TF) are a family of bilobal glycoproteins that tightly bind ferric iron. Each of the homologous N- and C-lobes contains a single iron-binding site situated in a deep cleft. Human serum transferrin (hTF) serves as the iron transport protein in the blood; circulating transferrin binds to receptors on the cell surface, and the complex is internalized by endocytosis. Within the cell, a reduction in pH leads to iron release from hTF in a receptor-dependent process resulting in a large conformational change in each lobe. In the hTF N-lobe, two critical lysines facilitate this pH-dependent conformational change allowing entry of a chelator to capture the iron. In the C-lobe, the lysine pair is replaced by a triad of residues: Lys534, Arg632, and Asp634. Previous studies show that mutation of any of these triad residues to alanine results in significant retardation of iron release at both pH 7.4 and pH 5.6. In the present work, the role of the three residues is probed further by conversion to the residues observed at the equivalent positions in ovotransferrin (Q-K-L) and human lactoferrin (K-N-N) as well as a triad with an interchanged lysine and arginine (K534R/R632K). As expected, all of the constructs bind iron and associate with the receptor with nearly the same K(D) as the wild-type monoferric hTF control. However, interesting differences in the effect of the substitutions on the iron release rate in the presence and absence of the receptor at pH 5.6 are observed. Additionally, titration with KCl indicates that position 632 must have a positively charged residue to elicit a robust rate acceleration as a function of increasing salt. On the basis of these observations, a model for iron release from the hTF C-lobe is proposed. These studies provide insight into the importance of charge and geometry of the amino acids at these positions as a partial explanation for differences in behavior of individual TF family members, human serum transferrin, ovotransferrin, and lactoferrin. The studies collectively highlight important features common to both the N- and C-lobes of TF and the critical role of the receptor in iron release.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Chemical Society
Loading ...
Support Center