Transferrin: A Natural Carrier for Metal Ions and Drugs

  • Luigi Messori
  • Andrea Scozzafava
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASEN2, volume 26)


Transferrins constitute a large family of iron binding glycoproteins whose main function is to control the level of free iron in the body fluids of animals through complexation [1, 2]. So, for instance, serum transferrin is present in blood plasma; lactoferrin in milk and other secretory fluids, like tears; ovotransferrin in egg white, and melanotransferrin in human melanoma cells [3]. Serum transferrin is the principal iron transport protein of vertebrates, delivering iron to cells through a receptor mediated process. Under normal conditions, transferrin is only 30% saturated with iron [4] so that it can act as an efficient iron buffer. Transferrin’s function is better understood under pathological conditions, when it is absent or altered. For example, in the case of congenital deficiency of the protein, dramatic iron deposition in tissues is observed, leading to severe toxicity. Transferrins bind iron in +3 oxidation state; remarkably, the iron binding process requires the concomitant binding of a synergistic anion which, under physiological conditions, is carbonate.


Iron Uptake Transferrin Receptor Iron Binding Serum Transferrin Human Transferrin 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigi Messori
    • 1
  • Andrea Scozzafava
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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