Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 363–371 | Cite as

Transferrin-receptor interaction and iron uptake by reticulocytes of vertebrate animals — a comparative study

  • B. C. Lim
  • H. J. McArdle
  • E. H. Morgan


Transferrin-receptor interactions and iron uptake were studied in eleven different species of vertebrate animals (3 eutherian mammals, 3 marsupials, 2 reptiles and 1 bird, amphibian and bony fish). In the initial experiments it was shown that the uptake of transferrin-bound iron by immature erythroid cells from marsupial and reptilian species occurs by receptor-mediated endocytosis as in other vertebrate animals.

Reticulocytes were incubated with125I-59Fe-labelled transferrins from heterologous species and the results for iron and transferrin uptake compared with those obtained with the homologous protein. Cells from eutherian mammals were able to take up transferrin and iron from other eutherians and from the bob-tailed lizard but not from marsupials and other submammalian species. With marsupials and reptiles a similar specificity was observed, and the marsupial cells could also utilize chicken transferrin but not vice versa.

The results were extended by performing competition experiments in which the cells were incubated with radiolabelled homologous transferrin in the presence of increasing concentrations of non-radioactive heterologous transferrins. From the ability of the heterologous proteins to inhibit uptake of the homologous protein relative association constants (Ka1) for the transferrin-receptor interactions could be calculated. TheseKa1 values reflected the patterns observed in the first series of experiments.

These studies demonstrate that, although specificity exists in transferrin-receptor interactions throughout the range of vertebrate animals, in several instances reactivity between widely divergent species is also observed. Hence, structural similarities have been maintained throughout evolution. Nevertheless, no evidence of interaction between transferrin and its receptor from the two divisions of the Mammalia, the eutherians and the marsupials, was observed.


Transferrin Homologous Protein Iron Uptake Erythroid Cell Eutherian Mammal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Hanks balanced salt solution


phosphate-buffered saline


Rana Ringer solution


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. C. Lim
    • 1
  • H. J. McArdle
    • 1
  • E. H. Morgan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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