We report the patterns of variability in transferrin structure in pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia, women using oral contraceptives, nonanaemic rheumatoid arthritis, iron deficient rheumatoid arthritis and anemia of the chronic diseases. Changes in microheterogeneity were assessed by crossed immuno isoelectric focusing of serum transferrin. Intra-individual variation in the control group was minimal. Equally, inter-individual variation in controls and groups with established stable disease was very limited. In pregnancy an increase in transferrin concentration was accompanied by redirection of glycan synthesis to the highly sialylated and highly branched glycans, an effect also shown in women using oral contraceptives. Iron deficiency anemia was accompanied by increased protein core synthesis without the large shifts in the microheterogeneity pattern as seen in pregnancy at similar transferrin concentration. In contrast to this, rheumatoid arthritis was accompanied by decreased protein synthesis while the microheterogeneity pattern shifted significantly towards the highly branched glycans. Interpreted in the respective pathophysiological contexts results show that: (1) N-linked glycosylation of transferrin is a strictly controlled process, both in the physiological states and in disease. (2) Microheterogeneity is determined independently from transferrin protein synthetic rate. (3) Provisionally observed changes in the glycosylation can modulate the biological activity of the glycoprotein and as a result redirect internal iron fluxes. This proposition can be applied to altered iron metabolism in both pregnancy, oral contraceptives and rheumatoid arthritis. Changes are not operative in iron deficiency because qualitatively iron metabolism is not altered in this state.