Ferritin is the iron-storage protein responsible for sequestering excess iron, to be stored in a safe way in the liver or to be shed with the intestinal epithelial cells. The properties of ferritin in iron-overload-susceptible birds have not been elucidated. Furthermore, there is only scarce information on mucosal ferritin, with no information at all in avian species. Here we have studied the liver and proximal intestine ferritins of iron-overload-susceptible (Indian hill mynahs, common mynahs) and non-susceptible (turtledoves, chicken) bird species. A brief purification process preceded native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and staining the gels for protein and iron. Protein amounts and iron-binding characteristics of ferritin were measured and ferritin saturation levels were calculated. Although ferritin protein amounts did not differ significantly, liver and mucosal ferritins of sensitive bird species incorporated much more iron, leading to high saturation levels. Significantly higher ferritin iron content and saturation were observed in the liver of both mynah species and in the intestinal ferritin of Indian hill mynahs when compared with the non-susceptible species. Ferritin appears not to play a major role in the regulation of iron absorption, implicating other phases in iron transport to be more important in the onset and process of iron overload in birds.
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