Iron Salvage Pathways

  • Ann SmithEmail author
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)


Heme catabolism by heme oxygenases (HOs) in macrophages and liver cells allows the heme–iron from red blood cell hemoglobin to be recycled, i.e., to undergo reuse. Mammalian HOs generate Fe(II) in the cytosol from where it is distributed for biochemical and regulatory needs (e.g., heme synthesis, DNA synthesis, and ferritin induction), or stored safely on ferritin, or exported via ferroportin 1 (FPN1) to transferrin for delivery to cells throughout the body. This whole body cycle of iron reclamation is also maintained by several sources of heme in addition to the phagocytosis of effete red blood cells by macrophages. Intravascular hemolysis, whether from the normal wear and tear of circulating erythrocytes or during disease and trauma, provides both hemoglobin–haptoglobin (Hb–Hp) and heme (derived from Hb) in the circulation and within cells. Hb–heme is rapidly oxidized and heme then dissociates.


Ferritin Haptoglobin Heme Heme oxygenase Hemoglobin Hemolysis Hemopexin Iron NTBI Transferrin 



The author is grateful to Mr. Taron Davies for his help with the figures, which were based with permission on earlier diagrams of Drs. GJ Anderson and DM Frazer, and to Mr. Peter Hahl for help with the bibliography. Thanks also to both Drs Anderson and McClaren for their editorial support. The author wishes to acknowledge the help of colleagues in both the heme and iron fields, collaborators, technicians, students, and post-doctoral fellows who have contributed to her research on the hemopexin system and to the funding agencies including NIH, AHA, and UMRB that have supported the research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Missouri-K.C.Kansas CityUSA

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