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Curr Top Membr. 2012;69:3-35. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394390-3.00001-X.

Transferrin-mediated cellular iron delivery.

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


Essential to iron homeostasis is the transport of iron by the bilobal protein human serum transferrin (hTF). Each lobe (N- and C-lobe) of hTF forms a deep cleft which binds a single Fe(3+). Iron-bearing hTF in the blood binds tightly to the specific transferrin receptor (TFR), a homodimeric transmembrane protein. After undergoing endocytosis, acidification of the endosome initiates the release of Fe(3+) from hTF in a TFR-mediated process. Iron-free hTF remains tightly bound to the TFR at acidic pH; following recycling back to the cell surface, it is released to sequester more iron. Efficient delivery of iron is critically dependent on hTF/TFR interactions. Therefore, identification of the pH-specific contacts between hTF and the TFR is crucial. Recombinant protein production has enabled deconvolution of this complex system. The studies reviewed herein support a model in which pH-induced interrelated events control receptor-stimulated iron release from each lobe of hTF.

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