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In this experiment, the ferritin contains an iron-mineral core
[FeO(OH)]8[FeO(H2PO4)]. The iron-mineral core is attached to the inside of
the protein wall (as depicted in Scheme I of the main section of the tutorial). It is bound covalently to the carboxylate
sidechains on the protein wall. The protein is capable of storing as many as 4500 iron atoms in its interior, giving a
concentration equivalent to 0.25M Fe inside the protein. (At pH=7, [Fe3+] = 1018
M due to formation of insoluble hydroxides.)
Molecular Model of the Ferritin Protein with Mineral Core
Mineral Core Figure 1:
This is a molecular model of the ferritin protein with a CPK representation of the iron-mineral core. The view
looks down the 4-fold channel at the mineral core. The subunits that comprise the 4-fold channel are represented
as ribbons and the ribbons have the same color code as the subunits in Figure 1 in the main section of the
tutorial. The rest of the subunits are shown in the stick representation. The iron-mineral core is depicted as
rust-colored. This model shows only half of the ferritin shell. Recall that the mineral core is connected to the
protein shell with covalent bonds to carboxylate residues.
Note: The mineral core is not shown to be connected to the protein shell in this picture,
although the actual iron-mineral core is covalently bond to the carboxylate side chains in the protein wall.
Model Compound for Iron-mineral Core
Until recently, it was thought that all ferritin cores were microcrystalline and identical. However, ferritin cores from a
variety of sources have now been studied using a variety of experimental techniques (i.e., x-ray absorption spectroscopy,
Mossbauer spectroscopy, and high-resolution electron microscopy) and a number of variations in the degree of structural and
magnetic ordering and level of hydration has been shown. One simplified model compound of the iron-mineral core that has
been developed is
Mineral Core Figure 2:
This is a stick representation of the simplified model compound for the iron-mineral core
The reference for this model compound is: K.L. Taft, et. al.,
Science, 259, 1302 (1993). "A Mixed-Valent Polyiron Oxo
Complex that Models the Biomineralization of the Ferritin Core."
Note: The carbon atoms are green, the hydrogens are white, the iron atoms are magenta, and
the oxygen atoms are red in this stick representation.
Return To Iron-removal Process Section of Tutorial
Return To Compound-Structure Index