Apo-lactoferrin and apo-transferrin protect against iron-ion-dependent hydroxyl-radical (.OH) generation from H2O2 in the presence of superoxide radicals or ascorbic acid at pH 7.4, whether the necessary iron is added as ionic iron or as ferritin. Iron-loaded transferrin and lactoferrin [2 mol of Fe(III)/mol] show no protective ability, but do not themselves accelerate .OH production unless chelating agents are present in the reaction mixture, especially if the proteins are incorrectly loaded with iron. At acidic pH values, the protective ability of the apoproteins is diminished, and the fully iron-loaded proteins can release some iron in a form able to accelerate .OH generation. The physiological significance of these observations is discussed.

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