Uses and biological importance of iron

Iron is essential to nearly all known organisms. In cells, iron is generally stored in the center of metalloproteins, because "free" iron (which binds non-specifically to many cellular components) can catalyze production of toxic free radicals.Iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

In animals, plants, and fungi, iron is often the metal ion incorporated into the heme complex. Heme is an essential component of cytochrome proteins, which mediate redoxreactions, and of oxygen carrier proteins such as hemoglobin,myoglobin, and leghemoglobin. Inorganic iron also contributes to redox reactions in the iron-sulfur clusters of manyenzymes, such as nitrogenase (involved in the synthesis ofammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen) and hydrogenase. Non-heme iron proteins include the enzymes methane monooxygenase (oxidizes methane to methanol), ribonucleotide reductase (reduces ribose todeoxyribose; DNA biosynthesis), hemerythrins (oxygen transport and fixation in Marine invertebrates) and purple acid phosphatase (hydrolysis of phosphate esters).

Iron distribution is heavily regulated in mammals, partly because iron has a high potential for biological toxicity. Iron distribution is also regulated because many bacteria require iron, so restricting its availability to bacteria (generally by sequestering it inside cells) can help to prevent or limit infections. This is probably the reason for the relatively low amounts of iron in mammalian milk. A major component of this regulation is the protein transferrin, which binds iron absorbed from the duodenum and carries it in the blood to cells

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