Absorption of Hemoglobin Iron: The Role of Xanthine Oxidase in the Intestinal Heme-Splitting Reaction



Heme from ingested hemoglobin—59Fe is taken into the epithelial cell of the small intestinal mucosa of the dog and the 59Fe subsequently appears in the plasma bound to transferrin. A substance was demonstrated in homogenates of the mucosa which releases iron from a hemoglobin substrate in vitro. Thus: (1) The addition of catalase to the mucosal homogenate reduces the "heme-splitting" reaction. In contrast, sodium azide, a catalase inhibitor, potentiates the reaction. This suggests that a peroxide generating system participates in the "heme-splitting" reaction. (2) Xanthine oxidase, an enzyme present in the intestinal epithelial cell, produces H2O2 by oxidation of its substrate. The addition of allopurinol, a xanthine oxidase inhibitor, to the intestinal mucosal homogenate diminishes the "heme-splitting" reaction. (3) Fractionation of the 50,000 Gm. supernatant of the mucosal homogenate on a G-200 Sephadex column shows the "heme-splitting" activity to have the same elution volume as xanthine oxidase, indicating a similar molecular weight. (4) The addition of a mucosal homogenate to a xanthine substrate results in the production of uric acid. These data suggest that xanthine oxidase in the intestinal epithelial cell is important in the release of iron from absorbed heme. The enzyme mediates the "heme-splitting" reaction by the generation of peroxides which, in turn, oxidize the alpha-methene bridge of the heme ring releasing iron and forming biliverdin.

  • Submitted May 23, 1969.
  • Accepted July 31, 1969.