Molecular, physiological and clinical aspects of the iron storage protein ferritin

Koichi Orino, Kiyotaka Watanabe
Veterinary Journal 2008, 178 (2): 191-201
Oxidative stress is a major factor in inflammatory, malignant and metabolic diseases in domestic and farm animals. Oxidative stress-mediated damage depends on the level of cellular and total body iron status because an excess iron (Fe(2+)) pool produces the most harmful free radicals (hydroxyls) through the Fenton reaction. Ferritin is a ubiquitous and conserved iron storage protein that plays a central role in iron metabolism and has the dual function of storing iron in bioavailable and non-toxic forms. Intracellular ferritin synthesis is controlled at translational and transcriptional levels in both an iron-dependent and an iron-independent manner. Ferritin is also found in extracellular fluids such as serum, synovial fluids and milk. Although serum ferritin is a sensitive indicator of body iron stores, the extracellular ferritins are elevated in inflammatory or malignant disease. Circulating ferritin interacts with ferritin-binding protein to form a complex, which is rapidly cleared from the body. This review describes recent research of physiological and clinical significance of ferritin and its application to future veterinary medicine.

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