Gastrins, iron and colorectal cancer

Metallomics. 2009 Sep;1(5):370-4. doi: 10.1039/b909112m. Epub 2009 Jul 28.


This minireview explores the connections between circulating gastrins, iron status and colorectal cancer. The peptide hormone gastrin is a major regulator of acid secretion and a potent mitogen for normal and malignant gastrointestinal cells. Gastrins bind two ferric ions with μM affinity and, in the case of non-amidated forms of the hormone, iron binding is essential for biological activity. The ferric ion ligands have been identified as glutamates 7, 8 and 9 in the 18 amino acid peptide glycine-extended gastrin. An interaction between gastrin and transferrin was first demonstrated by covalent crosslinking techniques, and has been recently confirmed by surface plasmon resonance. We have therefore proposed that gastrins act as catalysts in the loading of transferrin with iron. Several recent lines of evidence, including the facts that the concentrations of circulating gastrins are increased in mice and humans with the iron overload disease haemochromatosis, and that transferrin saturation positively correlates with circulating gastrin concentrations, suggest that gastrins may be involved in iron homeostasis. In addition the recognition that ferric ions may play an unexpected role in the biological activity of non-amidated gastrins may assist in the development of new therapies for colorectal carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Gastrins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Cholecystokinin B / metabolism
  • Transferrin / metabolism


  • Gastrins
  • Receptor, Cholecystokinin B
  • Transferrin
  • Iron