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I read that both hemoglobin and ferritin are for storing iron in the body. So, what is the difference between them in terms of storing/binding iron?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Hemoglobin is the protein of erythrocytes (red blood cells) which has ferrous ions (Fe2+) bound in its subunits. These are able to keep oxygen bound which enables the cell to transport oxygen through the circulation. It's not really for storage of iron, it's for using it.

Ferritin is the actual storage protein, cells express it to store iron in case of deficiency and also to regulate the amount they have in the cell. According to this, it's mainly expressed in muscle, liver and kidney cells (but I'm not too sure about the details of that study so I might have got that wrong).

Edit: just found this in one of my old lectures; unfortunately it doesn't quote sources: ferritin stores iron in liver and heart. The total iron in the body is ~3.9g, of which 2.5g are in use in hemoglobin, 500mg in stores (an additional 250mg in the liver), 150mg in bone marrow, 300mg in myoglobin and 150mg in other enzymes. The remaining 5mg are bound to transferrin in the plasma.

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yah - hemoglobin doesn't really store iron, its using the iron :) – shigeta Jun 7 '12 at 22:50
Strange, I always thought that was myoglobin's job in muscle tissue. Anyone know myoglobin and ferritin's function in relation to one another? – LanceLafontaine Jun 8 '12 at 20:43
According to Wikipedia we don't really know the function of myoglobin yet. Given its high relatedness to hemoglobin though, I highly doubt it serves to store iron. – Armatus Jun 8 '12 at 21:09
@LanceLafontaine: myoglobin is essentially the muscle equivalent of haemoglobin, carrying O2 to muscle cells. Iron is used in both myoglobin and haemoglobin as the "attachment site" for O2. – nico Jun 10 '12 at 7:54

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