Ferritin family proteins and their use in bionanotechnology

N Biotechnol. 2015 Dec 25;32(6):651-7. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2014.12.006. Epub 2015 Jan 5.


Ferritin family proteins are found in all kingdoms of life and act to store iron within a protein cage and to protect the cell from oxidative damage caused by the Fenton reaction. The structural and biochemical features of the ferritins have been widely exploited in bionanotechnology applications: from the production of metal nanoparticles; as templates for semi-conductor production; and as scaffolds for vaccine design and drug delivery. In this review we first discuss the structural properties of the main ferritin family proteins, and describe how their organisation specifies their functions. Second, we describe materials science applications of ferritins that rely on their ability to sequester metal within their cavities. Finally, we explore the use of ferritin as a container for drug delivery and as a scaffold for the production of vaccines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology / trends
  • Contrast Media / chemical synthesis*
  • Ferritins / chemistry*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Nanotechnology / trends


  • Contrast Media
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles
  • Ferritins