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May 21, 2008

Investigators Identify 3-D Structure of Iron-Regulation Protein

  • Montana State University scientists generated the first 3-D maps of the atoms that make up Steap3, a protein involved in regulating the body's absorption of iron.

    To understand Steap3’s role in transporting and maintaining balanced levels of iron, the scientists identified and purified samples of the protein and then turned those samples into crystals. The computer-drawn result, a 3-D image that resembles tangled ribbons and strings, is a picture of the atoms of Steap3.

    Iron irregularities are some of the most common blood disorders in the world. Iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia, affects more than a billion people around the world and can cause developmental and immune system problems. Conversely, having too much iron, a condition called hemochromatosis, can also hurt the body by releasing destructive free radicals.

    The paper will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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