Iron Oxidation and Core Formation in Recombinant Heteropolymeric Human Ferritins

M Mehlenbacher, Maura Poli, P Arosio, P Santambrogio, S Levi, ND Chasteen, F Bou-Abdallah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In animals, the iron storage and detoxification protein, ferritin, is composed of two functionally and genetically distinct subunit types, H (heavy) and L (light), which co-assemble in various ratios with tissue specific distributions to form shell-like protein structures of 24 subunits within which a mineralized iron core is stored. The H-subunit possesses a ferroxidase center (FC) that catalyzes Fe(II) oxidation, whereas the L-subunit does not. To assess the role of the L-subunit in iron oxidation and core formation, two human recombinant heteropolymeric ferritins, designated H-rich and L-rich with ratios of ∼20H:4L and ∼22L:2H, respectively, were employed and compared to the human homopolymeric H-subunit ferritin (HuHF). These heteropolymeric ferritins have a composition similar to the composition of those found in hearts and brains (i.e., H-rich) and in livers and spleens (i.e., L-rich). As for HuHF, iron oxidation in H-rich ferritin was found to proceed with a 2:1 Fe(II):O2 stoichiometry at an iron level of 2 Fe(II) atoms/H-subunit with the generation of H2O2. The H2O2 reacted with additional Fe(II) in a 2:1 Fe(II):H2O2 ratio, thus avoiding the production of hydroxyl radical. A μ-1,2-peroxo-diFe(III) intermediate was observed at the FC of H-rich ferritin as for HuHF. Importantly, the H-rich protein regenerated full ferroxidase activity more rapidly than HuHF did and additionally formed larger iron cores, indicating dual roles for the L-subunit in facilitating iron turnover at the FC and in mineralization of the core. The L-rich ferritin, while also facilitating iron oxidation at the FC, additionally promoted oxidation at the mineral surface once the iron binding capacity of the FC was exceeded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3900-3912
Number of pages13
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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