More than 100 years ago, we never heard of hemoglobin – yet it is part of our body. More than 50 years ago, we never heard of DNA – yet it is part of our body. Whether discovered or undiscovered, whether we know or don’t know, certain molecules are an integral part of our body and vital for our survival.
Today, we present to you one such fundamental molecule – lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is part of our body. Lactoferrin is not just another common vitamin, mineral, berry or oil. Lactoferrin is a complex glycoprotein naturally made inside our body on a daily basis to perform various vital functions. Lactoferrin is critical for healthy living. Let’s take a closer look at this bioactive protein.
Lactoferrin is a 75 to 80-kDa glycoprotein. Our body has the recipe encoded in the DNA to produce lactoferrin – as a single-gene product.
If you dissect the lactoferrin name – “lacto” means milk and “ferrin” means iron, which suggests that it is an iron-binding milk protein. But in reality, there are 29 different types or analogs of lactoferrin, each with a slightly different function. So lactoferrin does much more. For instance, lactoferrin supports hemoglobin by providing iron (heme) to its core; lactoferrin also binds to DNA and helps regulate gene expression.
Lactoferrin in the Body
Lactoferrin is naturally present in all body fluids that bathe our mucosal surfaces.
Lactoferrin levels can be measured in those biological fluids - lactoferrin is most concentrated in colostrum (a special milk that is produced by mother for limited time right after her baby is born) and less so in blood plasma. Lactoferrin is also a vital component of white blood cells (specifically in the secondary granules of neutrophils) and is localized in several tissues.
Lactoferrin and Metal Binding
With respect to its metal binding capacity, lactoferrin is very versatile. Lactoferrin is a bi-lobed protein, and each lobe has the ability to bind to an atom of iron. However, lactoferrin can also bind to other metals including copper, zinc, manganese, and vanadium. In our body, lactoferrin simultaneously exists in three physical states based on its iron (or other metal)-binding status, namely - ‘apo’ (iron-free), ‘holo’ (iron-saturated) or partially iron-saturated forms. All these three forms are inter-convertible and associated with specific physiological functions based on the REDOX conditions in its biological environment.
So why does our body produce lactoferrin? Why is lactoferrin present in all parts of our body? Why does lactoferrin bind to and transport transition metals? Well simply put – it’s because lactoferrin is vital for healthy living! Lactoferrin is a fundamental bio-replenishment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tezus Naidu, PharmD, MPH, MBS (Drug Discovery) has industry expertise in biotechnology, public health, and pharmaceutical science. He has over fifteen years of experience in clinical research and has been a lead investigator for several IRB-approved clinical studies. Tezus has co-authored multiple research publications and is a co-inventor on several patents related to nutrition.