Known and potential roles of transferrin in iron biology

Biometals. 2012 Aug;25(4):677-86. doi: 10.1007/s10534-012-9520-3.


Transferrin is an abundant serum metal-binding protein best known for its role in iron delivery. The human disease congenital atransferrinemia and animal models of this disease highlight the essential role of transferrin in erythropoiesis and iron metabolism. Patients and mice deficient in transferrin exhibit anemia and a paradoxical iron overload attributed to deficiency in hepcidin, a peptide hormone synthesized largely by the liver that inhibits dietary iron absorption and macrophage iron efflux. Studies of inherited human disease and model organisms indicate that transferrin is an essential regulator of hepcidin expression. In this paper, we review current literature on transferrin deficiency and present our recent findings, including potential overlaps between transferrin, iron and manganese in the regulation of hepcidin expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / genetics
  • Anemia / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Hepcidins
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Metal Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics
  • Metal Metabolism, Inborn Errors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Transferrin / deficiency
  • Transferrin / genetics
  • Transferrin / metabolism*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • HAMP protein, human
  • Hamp protein, mouse
  • Hepcidins
  • Transferrin
  • Manganese
  • Iron

Supplementary concepts

  • Congenital atransferrinemia