In patients with spontaneous chronic low plasma latent iron-binding capacity, a large fraction of the intestinally absorbed iron is deposited in the liver without prior appearance in the systemic plasma. Such hepatic iron is not released to any large extent during the subsequent 2 weeks.

Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that iron absorbed from the intestinal tract is not initially bound to transferrin. When the plasma latent iron-binding capacity is normal, iron binds to transferrin prior to reaching the liver; when the plasma latent iron-binding capacity is low, a portion of the iron reaches the liver either unbound or abnormally bound to transferrin, resulting in its immediate hepatic deposition.

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