Ferritin as a source of iron for oxidative damage

Free Radic Biol Med. 1992;12(5):417-27. doi: 10.1016/0891-5849(92)90091-t.


The generation of deleterious activated oxygen species capable of damaging DNA, lipids, and proteins requires a catalyst such as iron. Once released, ferritin iron is capable of catalyzing these reactions. Thus, agents that promote iron release may lead to increased oxidative damage. The superoxide anion formed enzymatically, radiolytically, via metal-catalyzed oxidations, or by redox cycling xenobiotics reductively mobilizes ferritin iron and promotes oxidative damage. In addition, a growing list of compounds capable of undergoing single electron oxidation/reduction reactions exemplified by paraquat, adriamycin, and alloxan have been reported to release iron from ferritin. Because the rapid removal of iron from ferritin requires reduction of the iron core, it is not surprising that the reduction potential of a compound is a primary factor that determines whether a compound will mobilize ferritin iron. The reduction potential does not, however, predict the rate of iron release. Therefore, ferritin-dependent oxidative damage may be involved in the pathogenesis of diseases where increased superoxide formation occurs and the toxicity of chemicals that increase superoxide production or have an adequate reduction potential to mobilize ferritin iron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ferritins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Lipid Peroxidation*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Superoxides / metabolism
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Xenobiotics
  • Superoxides
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Oxygen