About Lactoferrin and Transferrin - Review | OraMune

Inhibitory Effects on Bacterial Growth and BIOFILM Formation.


Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein and a member of transferrin family capable of binding and transferring iron (Fe3+ ions). It is therefore an iron chelator. Lactoferrin is found in small quantities in milk whey and the exocrine secretions of mammals. It is released from neutrophil granules during inflammation and is the main source of lactoferrin in blood plasma. lactoferrin is considered a multifunctional or multi-tasking protein that influences the immune system at the cellular (lymphocytes, phagocytes, neutrophils, natural killer cells) and molecular (cytokines, interleukins, tumor necrosis factor, granulocyte-monocyte stimulating factor) levels. It plays several biological roles and has antibacterial, antiviral, anti fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory activities. It affects growth and proliferation of a variety of infectious agents both Gram- positive (Streptococcus pyogenese, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenese) and Gram negative (E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Yersinia enterocolica) and other bacteria. It is of interest that while lactoferrin inhibits growth of iron-dependant bacteria, in certain cases in contrast it may serve as an iron donor, and in this manner support the growth of some beneficial bacteria with low iron demands such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. The bacterial growth inhibitory activity of lactoferrin due to its iron binding properties makes it of grate importance in SUPPRETION OF BACTERIAL BIOFILM FORMATION discussed bellow.


Transferrin like lactoferrin is an iron binding glycoprotein that constitutes 7.5 to 8% of bovine immunoglobulin (see review bovine immunoglobulin). Similar to lactoferrin, it inhibits multiplication and growth of certain viral, bacterial and fungal organisms by iron inhibition. This property of transferrin has been known for a long time and was shown by this writer in 1968 to inhibit mycobacterial growth as part of his Ph.D. dissertation and by subsequent publications.


Antimicrobial factors constitute one arm of the innate immune system which protect mucosal surfaces from bacterial infections. These factors can rapidly kill bacteria and micro organisms deposited on mucosal surfaces and prevent acute, invasive infections. In many chronic infections, however, bacteria live in complex structures called biofilms. Biofilms are collections of microbial communities encased by a matrix of negatively charged polysaccharides held together by positively charged calcium, magnesium and ironic ions. Within the biofilm the bacteria are protected from immune attack, antibiotics, UV radiation, dehydration, toxic metals and salinity. Further, the matrix allows for free intracellular interactions, exchange of genetic materials, necessary metabolites and nutrients. Given these facts, it is therefore clear that, disruption of biofilm formation from free living independent organisms is of paramount importance in controlling infections. Ample evidence exists that iron binding components of the innate immune system, namely lactoferrin and transferrin (see reviews) fulfill this function. Lactoferrin stimulates twitching, a specialized form of surface motility, causing the bacteria to wander across the surface instead of forming cell clusters and biofilms. Other chelators such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) induce dispersal and killing of certain biofilms such as Staph and Pseudomonas species such as P.aeruginosa an exceptionally vicious and devastating infection. The combination of EDTA and antibiotics are effective biofilm disrupters. Immunoglobulins (see reviw immunoglobulins), probiotics (see review probiotics and prebiotics-inulin ) and enzymes are other adjunctive therapies that help fight infections and biofilm formation.


Lactoferrin References

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Transferring References:

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Bioflm references:

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