Iron transport across cell membranes

S K S Srai, A Bomford, H J McArdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Iron is an essential element playing a vital role in many cellular processes. This requirement is complicated by the fact that environmental iron is invariably present as insoluble Fe3+ leading to poor bioavailability and toxicity, since even low concentrations of iron catalyse the production of damaging reactive oxygen species. As a result organisms have evolved efficient uptake and transport systems to extract iron from their environment as well as ferritins that store iron in a non-toxic form. In higher organisms, the first membrane barrier encountered is the apical surface of the duodenal enterocyte, a specialized absorptive cell of the intestinal epithelium that undertakes vectorial transport of iron. Iron is initially solubilized by reduction and Fe2+ is transported across the cell membrane by a carrier-mediated transport process. This is followed by intracellular transfer of iron to the basolateral enterocyte membrane with subsequent transfer and release of iron to transferrin in the portal blood. A second site of iron transport is at the placento-fetal barrier where similar principles operate. In this review we describe recently identified transmembrane transporters and associated accessory proteins responsible for iron transport at these two sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalBest Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002


  • DMT1
  • IREG1
  • MTP1
  • hephaestin
  • ferric red uctase (Dcytb)
  • HFE
  • apical membrane
  • basolateral membrane
  • hereditary haemochromatosis
  • ferritin
  • transferrin
  • transferrin receptor
  • iron transporters
  • crypt cell
  • enterocyte
  • epithelial cell
  • ferroportin
  • iron overload
  • iron deficiency
  • syncytiotrophoblast
  • placenta
  • hereditary hemochromatosis protein
  • autosomal-dominant hemochromatosis
  • metal-ion transporter
  • transferrin receptor
  • idiopathic hemochromatosis
  • genetic hemochromatosis
  • ceruloplasmin homolog
  • plasma-membrane
  • small-intestine
  • CACO-2 cells


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