Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), a disease marked by chronic iron overload from insufficient expression of the hormone hepcidin, is one of the most common genetic diseases. One form of HH (type III) results from mutations in transferrin receptor-2 (TfR2). TfR2 is postulated to be a part of signaling system that is capable of modulating hepcidin expression. However, the molecular details of TfR2's role in this system remain unclear. TfR2 is predicted to bind the iron carrier transferrin (Tf) when the iron saturation of Tf is high. To better understand the nature of these TfR-Tf interactions, a binding study with the full-length receptors was conducted. In agreement with previous studies with truncated forms of these receptors, holo-Tf binds to the TfR1 homologue significantly stronger than to TfR2. However, the binding constant for Tf-TfR2 is still far above that of physiological holo-Tf levels, inconsistent with the hypothetical model, suggesting that other factors mediate the interaction. One possible factor, apo-Tf, only weakly binds TfR2 at serum pH and thus will not be able to effectively compete with holo-Tf. Tf binding to a TfR2 chimera containing the TfR1 helical domain indicates that the differences in the helical domain account for differences in the on rate of Tf, and nonconserved inter-receptor interactions are necessary for the stabilization of the complex. Conserved residues at one possible site of stabilization, the apical arm junction, are not important for TfR1-Tf binding but are critical for the TfR2-Tf interaction. Our results highlight the differences in Tf interactions with the two TfRs.
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