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Biol Res. 2006;39(1):167-71.

Iron at the center of ferritin, metal/oxygen homeostasis and novel dietary strategies.

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Center for BioIron at CHORI, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California, USA.


Bioiron - central to respiration, photosynthesis and DNA synthesis and complicated by radical chemistry with oxygen - depends on ferritin, the super family of protein nanocages (maxi-ferritins in humans, animals, plant, and bacteria, and mini-ferritins, also called DPS proteins, in bacteria) for iron and oxygen control. Regulation of ferritin synthesis, best studied in animals, uses DNA transcription and mRNA translation check points. Ferritin is a member of both the "oxidant stress response" gene family that includes thioredoxin reductase and quinine reductase, and a member of the iron responsive gene family that includes ferroportin and mt-aconitase ferritin DNA regulation responds preferentially to oxidant response inducers and ferritin mRNA to iron inducers: heme confers regulator synergy. Ferritin proteins manage iron and oxygen, with ferroxidase sites and iron + oxygen substrates to form mineral of both Fe and O atoms; maxi-ferritins contribute more to cellular iron metabolism and mini-ferritins to stress responses. Iron recovery from ferritin is controlled by gated protein pores, possibly contributing to iron absorption from ferritin, a significant dietary iron source. Ferritin gene regulation is a model for integrating DNA/mRNA controls, while ferritin protein function is central to molecular nutrition cellular metabolism at the crossroads of iron and oxygen in biology.

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