Transferrin receptors in the human gastrointestinal tract. Relationship to body iron stores

Gastroenterology. 1986 Oct;91(4):861-9. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(86)90687-6.


Fluorescently labeled antibodies were used to identify transferrin receptors and mucosal transferrin in human gastrointestinal biopsy sections. Transferrin receptors were evident in the villous epithelium and the crypt areas of duodenum, ileum, and colon, predominantly in the basal-lateral area. In 7 subjects with low iron stores, the intensity of duodenal villous staining for receptor, on a scale of 0-4, was 2.1 +/- 0.3 (mean +/- SD). This value was significantly higher than the value in 13 subjects with normal iron stores (1.1 +/- 0.4). In 5 patients with hereditary hemochromatosis, duodenal transferrin receptor staining was not significantly different from that in the subjects with normal iron stores. Transferrin staining was found in the apical cytoplasm of epithelial cells in the duodenum, ileum, and colon, but observer assessment was not sufficiently reproducible to make a quantitative analysis. Our results suggest that iron deficiency is accompanied by an increase in transferrin receptors in duodenal absorptive cells, and the genetic lesion in hemochromatosis does not involve an increase in transferrin receptors in the intestinal mucosa compared with subjects with normal iron stores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / metabolism
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Hemochromatosis / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Radioisotopes
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Transferrin / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Iron Radioisotopes
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Transferrin
  • Iron