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Biochimica et biophysica acta

Transferrin iron uptake is stimulated by ascorbate via an intracellular reductive mechanism.


PMID 23481043

Abstract

Although ascorbate has long been known to stimulate dietary iron (Fe) absorption and non-transferrin Fe uptake, the role of ascorbate in transferrin Fe uptake is unknown. Transferrin is a serum Fe transport protein supplying almost all cellular Fe under physiological conditions. We sought to examine ascorbate's role in this process, particularly as cultured cells are typically ascorbate-deficient. At typical plasma concentrations, ascorbate significantly increased (59)Fe uptake from transferrin by 1.5-2-fold in a range of cells. Moreover, ascorbate enhanced ferritin expression and increased (59)Fe accumulation in ferritin. The lack of effect of cycloheximide or the cytosolic aconitase inhibitor, oxalomalate, on ascorbate-mediated (59)Fe uptake from transferrin indicate increased ferritin synthesis or cytosolic aconitase activity was not responsible for ascorbate's activity. Experiments with membrane-permeant and -impermeant ascorbate-oxidizing reagents indicate that while extracellular ascorbate is required for stimulation of (59)Fe uptake from (59)Fe-citrate, only intracellular ascorbate is needed for transferrin (59)Fe uptake. Additionally, experiments with l-ascorbate analogs indicate ascorbate's reducing ene-diol moiety is necessary for its stimulatory activity. Importantly, neither N-acetylcysteine nor buthionine sulfoximine, which increase or decrease intracellular glutathione, respectively, affected transferrin-dependent (59)Fe uptake. Thus, ascorbate's stimulatory effect is not due to a general increase in cellular reducing capacity. Ascorbate also did not affect expression of transferrin receptor 1 or (125)I-transferrin cellular flux. However, transferrin receptors, endocytosis, vacuolar-type ATPase activity and endosomal acidification were required for ascorbate's stimulatory activity. Therefore, ascorbate is a novel modulator of the classical transferrin Fe uptake pathway, acting via an intracellular reductive mechanism.