Ferritins are iron-storage proteins that accumulate in plastids during seed formation, and also in leaves during senescence or iron overload. Iron release from ferritins occurs during growth of seedlings and greening of plastids. Depending on the concentration of the reducing agent ascorbate, either an overall iron release or uptake by ferritins from iron(III) citrate may occur. We have designed methods to measure these simultaneous and independent uptake and release fluxes. Each individual step of the exchange was studied using different iron chelates and an excess of ligand. It is shown that: (i) the chelated form of iron, and not ionic Fe3+, is the substrate for iron reduction, which controls the subsequent uptake by ferritin; (ii) iron uptake by ferritins is faster at pH 8.4 than at pH 7 or 6 and is inhibited by an excess of strongly binding free ligands; and (iii) strongly binding free ligands are inhibitory during iron release by ascorbate. When reactions are allowed to proceed simultaneously, the iron chelating power is shown to be a key factor in the overall exchange. The interactions of iron chelating power, reducing capacity and pH are discussed with regard to their influence on the biochemical mobilization of iron.

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