Varying iron release from transferrin and lactoferrin proteins. A laboratory experiment

Fernando Carmona, Ana González, Manu Sánchez, Natividad Gálvez, Rafael Cuesta, Mercè Capdevila, Jose M. Dominguez-Vera

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8 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Iron metabolism is an important subject of study for undergraduate students of chemistry and biochemistry. Relevant laboratory exercises are scarce in the literature but would be very helpful in assisting students grasp key concepts. The experiment described here deals with different iron release mechanisms of two protagonists in iron metabolism: serum transferrin (Tf) and lactoferrin (Lf). Despite having very similar structures and iron-binding sites, Tf releases practically all its iron at pH 5.5 while Lf requires a significantly lower pH of 3. This difference in behavior is directly related to their respective biological functions as Tf blood-borne iron into the cell, while Lf competes with pathogens to sequester iron in biological fluids at more acidic pHs.  During this experiment, the students will carry out iron loading and unloading on both human Lf and Tf and monitor the iron release at different pHs using UV–Vis spectroscopy. With this simple approach, the students will discover the different patterns of iron release of Tf and Lf and how this variance in behavior relates to their biological functions. Furthermore, this laboratory practice can be expanded to allow students to investigate a variety of iron proteins. © 2017 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 45(6):521–527, 2017.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-527
JournalBiochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Biological chemistry
  • UV/vis spectroscopy
  • hands-on learning/manipulative
  • iron metabolism
  • laboratory instructions
  • proteins


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