Adequacy of iron supply for erythropoiesis: in vivo observations in humans

J Lab Clin Med. 1987 Dec;110(6):734-9.


The adequacy of tissue iron supply was examined with ferrokinetic techniques in subjects with decreased plasma iron concentration and in subjects with a normal plasma iron concentration but with increased tissue iron requirements. The competition by transferrin receptors for diferric vs monoferric transferrin was measured in eight normal persons and eight with iron deficiency. There was a highly significant (P less than 0.001) decrease in receptor preference for diferric transferrin in subjects with iron deficiency, indicating an insufficient amount of iron-bearing transferrin to saturate tissue receptors. The adequacy of the plasma iron supply was also examined by determining the number of iron-bearing transferrin molecules with receptors at normal and elevated plasma iron concentrations. Significant increases were found at the higher plasma iron concentration, not only in patients with iron deficiency, but also in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. Furthermore, the increase in the latter two groups was shown to be proportional to the degree of erythroid hyperplasia. These data indicate that tissue iron supply must be evaluated in terms of both plasma iron supply and erythropoietic requirements and that a relative iron deficiency is frequent in patients with erythroid hyperplasia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hypochromic / metabolism
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / metabolism
  • Erythropoiesis*
  • Humans
  • Iron / pharmacokinetics
  • Iron / physiology*
  • Receptors, Transferrin / metabolism
  • Thalassemia / metabolism
  • Transferrin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Transferrin
  • Iron