A structural model of human ferroportin has been built using two Escherichia coli proteins belonging to the major facilitator superfamily of transporters. A potential iron binding site was identified in the inward-open conformation of the model, and its relevance was tested through measurement of iron export of HEK293T cells expressing wild-type or mutated ferroportin. Aspartates 39 and 181 were found to be essential for the transport ability of the protein. Noteworthy, the D181V mutation is naturally found in type 4 hemochromatosis with reticuloendothelial system iron retention phenotype. The outward-open conformation of ferroportin was also predicted, and showed that significant conformational changes must occur in the inward- to outward-open transition of ferroportin. In particular, putative iron ligands move several ångströms away from each other, leading to the logical conclusion that the iron binding site is not occupied by the metal in the outward-open conformation of ferroportin.
The structure of human ferroportin has been modeled both in the inward-open and outward-open conformation. A potential iron binding site was identified and its relevance was assessed through iron export assays. The predicted structure can help to explain the different phenotypes associated to type 4 hemochromatosis, and also how iron is bound to and transported through the protein.