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Iron and transferrin. Research and therapeutic applications



Iron and transferrin. Research and therapeutic applications



Biotecnologia Aplicada 18(1): 1-9, Enero-Marzo



Iron plays an important physiological role in eucaryotic and procaryotic cells, which have evolved complex mechanisms to ensure an adequate iron supply and tight regulation of its metabolism. In vertebrates a group of iron-binding proteins performs these functions, keeping concentrations of biochemically and biologically available iron far below the levels required for microbial growth and generation of cytotoxic free radicals. How these proteins make iron metabolism a broad and effective mechanism of antimicrobial defence and homeostatic balance is discussed. Here we review the microbial mechanisms for iron-uptake in the human bacterial pathogens Escherichia coli, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, and Staphylococcus aureus. We also address the implications for host-parasite relationships and the significance of iron as a regulatory signal for the expression of virulence factors. Iron also exerts an important influence on the function of the human immune system and on the development of neoplasia. Potential clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic applications of iron biochemistry are highlighted. In particular we suggest that serum transferrin, the major extracellular iron transporter in systemic fluids, should be considered a promising target for modulating iron metabolism in clinical conditions. Exploration of iron metabolism offers a new way of looking at microbial infections. Its advantages in clinical medicine, research of microbial pathogenesis, and drug development in the alarming emergence of bacterial antibiotic resistance have been just recognised.

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Accession: 010885043

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