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Eur J Biochem. 1990 Nov 13;193(3):899-904.

On the limited ability of superoxide to release iron from ferritin.

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Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Bergen, Norway.


Reductive release of iron from ferritin may catalyze cytotoxic radical reactions like the Haber-Weiss reaction. The ability of .O2- to mobilize Fe(II) from ferritin was studied by using the xanthine/xanthine oxidase reaction, with and without superoxide dismutase, and with bathophenanthroline sulphonate as the chelator. Not more than one or two Fe(II)/ferritin molecules could be released by an .O2(-)-dependent mechanism, even after repeated exposures of ferritin to bursts of .O2-. The amount of releaseable iron depended on the size and the age of the iron core, but not on the iron content of the protein shell of ferritin which was manipulated by chelators and addition of FeCl3. The kinetic characteristics of the .O2(-)-mediated iron release indicated the presence of a small pool of readily available iron at the surface of the core. The very limited .O2(-)-dependent release of iron from ferritin is compatible with a protective role of ferritin against toxic iron-catalyzed reactions.

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