Transferrin is a blood plasma protein for iron delivery that, in humans, is encoded by the TF gene.[1] Transferrin is a glycoprotein that binds iron very tightly but reversibly. Although iron bound to transferrin is less than 0.1% (4 mg) of the total body iron, it is the most important iron pool, with the highest rate of turnover (25 mg/24 h). Transferrin has a molecular weight of around 80 kDa and contains 2 specific high-affinity Fe(III) binding sites. The affinity of transferrin for Fe(III) is extremely high (1023 M−1 at pH 7.4)[2] but decreases progressively with decreasing pH below neutrality.

Immune system

Transferrin is also associated with the innate immune system. Transferrin is found in the mucosa and binds iron, thus creating an environment low in free iron, where few bacteria are able to survive. The levels of transferrin decreases in inflammation[8], seeming contradictory to its function.

Transferrin imbalance can have serious health effects for those with low or high serum transferrin levels. A patient with an increased serum transferrin level often suffers from iron deficiency anemia.[5] A patient with decreased plasma transferrin can suffer from iron overload diseases and protein malnutrition. An absence of transferrin in the body creates a rare genetic disorder known as atransferrinemia; a condition characterized by anemia and hemosiderosis in the heart and liver that leads to many complications including heart failure.

Other effects

The metal binding properties of transferrin have a great influence on the biochemistry of plutonium in humans. Transferrin has a bacteriocidal effect on bacteria, in that it makes Fe3+ unavailable to the bacteria.

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