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Biochem J. 1979 Jul 15;182(1):47-54.

Haem transport to the liver by haemopexin. Receptor-mediated uptake with recycling of the protein.


Rat [(59)Fe]haem-(125)I-labelled haemopexin complexes (700pmol/rat) associate rapidly and exclusively with the liver after intravenous injection into anaesthetized rats. The two isotopes exhibit different patterns of accumulation. Liver (125)I-labelled haemopexin is maximum 10min after injection (20+/-4.9pmol/g of liver) and then declines by 2h to the low values (about 3pmol/g of liver) seen after injection of the apoprotein. In contrast, [(59)Fe]haem accumulates in the liver for at least 2h. Haemopexin undergoes no extensive proteolysis during 2h of haem transport as shown by precipitation with acid (98%) and specific antiserum (92%) and by electrophoresis. Moreover, only 1-2% of the dose is located in extrahepatic tissues, and there is no significant urinary excretion of either (125)I or (59)Fe. Hepatic uptake at 10min is saturable, reaching 200pmol of haemopexin/g of liver and 350pmol of haem/g of liver at a dose of 9nmol/rat, whereas uptake of the apoprotein is 3-5% of the dose. This suggests that the interaction of haem-haemopexin with the liver is a specific receptor-mediated process. The complex probably interacts via the protein moiety, since the haem analogues mesohaem and deuterohaem do not affect association of the protein with the liver but the species of haemopexin does. Increasing amounts of protein are associated with the liver 5min after injection in the order: human>rabbit>rat, and haem uptake is consistently increased. For both rat and rabbit haemopexin saturation is reached at the same concentration of protein, i.e. 180-200pmol/g of liver, indicating that the different protein species bind to a common receptor. We propose that haemopexin transports haem to the liver by a specific receptor-mediated process and then returns to the circulation.

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