Heme synthesis by copper-deficient cells was investigated to elucidate the nature of the defect in intracellular iron metabolism. Iron uptake from transferrin by copper-deficient reticulocytes was 52% of normal, and the rate of heme synthesis was 33% of normal. Hepatic mitochondria isolated from copper-deficient animals were deficient in cytochrome oxidase activity and failed to synthesize heme from ferric iron (Fe III) and protoporphyrin at the normal rate. The rate of heme synthesis correlated with the cytochrome oxidase activity. Heme synthesis from Fe(III) and protoporphyrin by normal mitochondria was enhanced by succinate and inhibited by malonate, antimycin A, azide, and cyanide. It is proposed that an intact electron transport system is required for the reduction of Fe(III), thereby providing a pool of ferrous iron (Fe II) for protoheme and heme a synthesis.

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