Mechanisms of iron mineralization in ferritins: one size does not fit all

J Biol Inorg Chem. 2014 Aug;19(6):775-85. doi: 10.1007/s00775-014-1136-3. Epub 2014 Apr 19.


Significant progress has been made in recent years toward understanding the processes by which an iron mineral is deposited within members of the ferritin family of 24mer iron storage proteins, enabled by high-resolution structures together with spectroscopic and kinetic studies. These suggest common characteristics that are shared between ferritins, namely, a highly symmetric arrangement of subunits that provides a protein coat around a central cavity in which the mineral is formed, channels through the coat that facilitate ingress and egress of ions, and catalytic sites, called ferroxidase centers, that drive Fe(2+) oxidation. They also reveal significant variations in both structure and mechanism amongst ferritins. Here, we describe three general types of structurally distinct ferroxidase center and the mechanisms of mineralization that they are associated with. The highlighted variation leads us to conclude that there is no universal mechanism by which ferritins function, but instead there exists several distinct mechanisms of ferritin iron mineralization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biocatalysis
  • Ceruloplasmin / chemistry*
  • Ceruloplasmin / metabolism*
  • Ferritins / chemistry*
  • Ferritins / metabolism*
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular


  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ceruloplasmin