Analyst, 133, p. 379-384 (2008); doi:10.1039/b715311b
Iron is involved in the function of all living cells and, in fact, many diseases arise from imbalances in iron homeostasis. Therefore, the development of analytical methodologies to improve and automate the measurement of clinical indices of iron status has increased tremendously over the years. This work describes the development of two complementary methodologies to evaluate transferrin (Tf) saturation, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), unsaturated iron-binding capacity (UIBC) and serum iron based on the use of iron-selective monitoring by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The first methodology is based on the saturation of transferrin (Tf) with natural Fe3+ followed by separation of the different sialoforms in an anion exchange column (Mono-Q) to quantify the iron in each Tf sialoform and total Tf by ICP-MS using post-column isotope dilution analysis. In the second part, the saturation is done with an iron tracer (57Fe) and the application of pattern deconvolution analysis permits the direct quantification of the Tf saturation, the serum iron and the unsaturated iron-binding capacity. These strategies are validated by using a reference serum certified for total Tf and tested also in serum samples from individuals suffering from hemochromatosis and Fe-supplemented patients. The results obtained for all the parameters related to Fe status were in good agreement with those obtained by clinical tests. The use of stable isotope labelling in connection with the on-line coupling of fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) to ICP-MS allows the accurate determination of several parameters of great clinical relevance in iron homeostasis by means of two independent chromatographic runs. The main advantage of the proposed methodology is the number of parameters that can be simultaneously obtained.