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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1987 May;84(10):3457-61.

Tissue distribution and clearance kinetics of non-transferrin-bound iron in the hypotransferrinemic mouse: a rodent model for hemochromatosis.


Genetically hypotransferrinemic mice accumulate iron in the liver and pancreas. A similar pattern of tissue iron accumulation occurs in humans with hereditary hemochromatosis. In both disorders, there is a decreased plasma concentration of apotransferrin. To test the hypothesis that nontransferrin-bound iron exists and is cleared by the parenchymal tissues, the tissue distribution of 59Fe was studied in animals lacking apotransferrin. Two groups of animals were used: normal rats and mice whose transferrin had been saturated by an intravenous injection of nonradiolabeled iron, and mice with congenital hypotransferrinemia. In control animals, injected 59Fe was found primarily in the bone marrow and spleen. In the transferrin iron-saturated animals, injected 59Fe accumulated in the liver and pancreas. Gastrointestinally absorbed iron in hypotransferrinemic or transferrin iron-saturated mice was deposited in the liver. This indicates that newly absorbed iron is released from mucosal cells not bound to transferrin. Clearance studies demonstrated that transferrin-bound 59Fe was removed from the circulation of rats with a half-time of 50 min. In transferrin iron-saturated animals, injected 59Fe was removed with a half-time of less than 30 s. Analysis of the distribution of 59Fe in serum samples by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis demonstrated the presence of 59Fe not bound to transferrin. These results demonstrate the existence of and an uptake system for non-transferrin-bound iron. These observations support the hypothesis that parenchymal iron overload is a consequence of reduced concentrations of apotransferrin.

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