Experimental cell research

Evidence that transferrin supports cell proliferation by supplying iron for DNA synthesis.

PMID 3371425


Transferrin is essential for cell proliferation and it was suggested that it may trigger a proliferative response following its interaction with receptors, serving as a growth factor. However, since the only clearly defined function of transferrin is iron transport, it may merely serve as an iron donor. To further clarify this issue, we took advantage of an iron chelate, ferric salicylaldehyde isonicotinoyl hydrazone (Fe-SIH), which we developed and previously demonstrated to efficiently supply iron to cells without using physiological transferrin receptor pathway. As expected, we observed that blocking monoclonal antibodies against transferrin receptors inhibited proliferation of both Raji and murine erythroleukemia cells. This inhibited cell growth was rescued upon the addition of Fe-SIH which was also shown to deliver iron to Raji cells in the presence of blocking anti-transferrin receptor antibodies. Moreover, blocking anti-transferrin receptor antibodies inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA and this inhibition could be overcome by added Fe-SIH. In addition, Fe-SIH slightly stimulated, while SIH (an iron chelator) significantly inhibited, DNA synthesis in phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood lymphocytes. Taken together, these results indicate that the only function of transferrin in supporting cell proliferation is to supply cells with iron.