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Biochem J. 2010 Jul 1;429(1):185-93. doi: 10.1042/BJ20100213.

Transferrin-iron routing to the cytosol and mitochondria as studied by live and real-time fluorescence.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Safra Campus at Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel.


In the present study we analysed the mechanism of intracellular routing of iron acquired by erythroid cells via receptor-mediated endocytosis of Tf-Fe [Tf (transferrin)-iron]. Using real-time fluorimetry and flow cytometry, in conjunction with targeted fluorescent metal sensors, we monitored concurrently the cytosolic and mitochondrial changes in labile iron evoked by endocytosed Tf-Fe. In K562 human erythroleukaemia cells, most of the Tf-Fe was found to be delivered to the cytosolic labile iron pool by a saturable mechanism [60-120 nM Km (app)] that was quantitatively dependent on: Tf receptor levels, endosomal acidification/reduction for dislodging iron from Tf and ensuing translocation of labile iron into the cytosolic compartment. The parallel ingress of iron to mitochondria was also saturable, but with a relatively lower Km (app) (26-42 nM) and a lower maximal ingress per cell than into the cytosol. The ingress of iron into the mitochondrial labile iron pool was blocked by cytosol-targeted iron chelators, implying that a substantial fraction of Tf-Fe delivered to these organelles passes through the cytosol in non-occluded forms that remain accessible to high-affinity ligands. The present paper is the first report describing intracellular iron routing measured in intact cells in real-time and in quantitative terms, opening the road for also exploring the process in mixed-cell populations of erythroid origin.

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