Chemistry and biology of eukaryotic iron metabolism

Philip Aisen, Caroline Enns, Marianne Wessling-Resnick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

494 Scopus citations

Abstract

With rare exceptions, virtually all studied organisms from Archaea to man are dependent on iron for survival. Despite the ubiquitous distribution and abundance of iron in the biosphere, iron-dependent life must contend with the paradoxical hazards of iron deficiency and iron overload, each with its serious or fatal consequences. Homeostatic mechanisms regulating the absorption, transport, storage and mobilization of cellular iron are therefore of critical importance in iron metabolism, and a rich biology and chemistry underlie all of these mechanisms. A coherent understanding of that biology and chemistry is now rapidly emerging. In this review we will emphasize discoveries of the past decade, which have brought a revolution to the understanding of the molecular events in iron metabolism. Of central importance has been the discovery of new proteins carrying out functions previously suspected but not understood or, more interestingly, unsuspected and surprising. Parallel discoveries have delineated regulatory mechanisms controlling the expression of proteins long known - the transferrin receptor and ferritin - as well as proteins new to the scene of iron metabolism and its homeostatic control. These proteins include the iron regulatory proteins (IRPs 1 and 2), a variety of ferrireductases in yeast an mammalian cells, membrane transporters (DMT1 and ferroportin 1), a multicopper ferroxidase involved in iron export from cells (hephaestin), and regulators of mitochondrial iron balance (frataxin and MFT). Experimental models, making use of organisms from yeast through the zebrafish to rodents have asserted their power in elucidating normal iron metabolism, as well as its genetic disorders and their underlying molecular defects. Iron absorption, previously poorly understood, is now a fruitful subject for research and well on its way to detailed elucidation. The long-sought hemochromatosis gene has been found, and active research is underway to determine how its aberrant functioning results in disease that is easily controlled but lethal when untreated. A surprising connection between iron metabolism and Friedreich's ataxia has been uncovered. It is no exaggeration to say that the new understanding of iron metabolism in health and disease has been explosive, and that what is past is likely to be prologue to what is ahead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-959
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Volume33
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

Keywords

  • Belgrade rat
  • Ceruloplasmin
  • DMT1
  • Ferrireductase
  • Ferritin
  • Ferroportin 1
  • Ferroxidase
  • Frataxin
  • Friedrich's ataxia
  • HFE
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hemosiderin
  • Hephaestin
  • IRE
  • IRP
  • Ireg1
  • Iron responsive element
  • Iron responsive protein
  • MTP1
  • SFT
  • Transferrin
  • Transferrin receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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