In-depth magnetometry and EPR analysis of the spin structure of human-liver ferritin: from DC to 9 GHz

Lucia Bossoni, J. Labra Muñoz, H.S.J. van der Zant, Vera Čaluković, A.J.E. Lefering, Ramon Egli*, Martina Huber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Downloads (Pure)


Ferritin, the major iron storage protein in organisms, stores iron in the form of iron oxyhydroxide most likely involving phosphorous as a constituent, the mineral form of which is not well understood. Therefore, the question of how the ca. 2000 iron atoms in the ferritin core are magnetically coupled is still largely open. The ferritin core, with a diameter of 5–8 nm, is encapsulated in a protein shell that also catalyzes the uptake of iron and protects the core from outside interactions. Neurodegenerative disease is associated with iron imbalance, generating specific interest in the magnetic properties of ferritin. Here we present 9 GHz continuous wave EPR and a comprehensive set of magnetometry techniques including isothermal remanent magnetization (IRM) and AC susceptibility to elucidate the magnetic properties of the core of human liver ferritin. For the analysis of the magnetometry data, a new microscopic model of the ferritin-core spin structure is derived, showing that magnetic moment is generated by surface-spin canting, rather than defects. The analysis explicitly includes the distribution of magnetic parameters, such as the distribution of the magnetic moment. This microscopic model explains some of the inconsistencies resulting from previous analysis approaches. The main findings are a mean magnetic moment of 337μB with a standard deviation of 0.947μB. In contrast to previous reports, only a relatively small contribution of paramagnetic and ferrimagnetic phases is found, in the order of maximally 3%. For EPR, the over 30 mT wide signal of the ferritin core is analyzed using the model of the giant spin system [Fittipaldi et al., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2016, 18, 3591–3597]. Two components are needed minimally, and the broadening of these components suggests a broad distribution of the magnetic resonance parameters, the zero-field splitting, D, and the spin quantum number, S. We compare parameters from EPR and magnetometry and find that EPR is particularly sensitive to the surface spins of the core, revealing the potential to use EPR as a diagnostic for surface-spin disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27694-27717
Number of pages24
JournalPhysical chemistry chemical physics (PCCP)
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'In-depth magnetometry and EPR analysis of the spin structure of human-liver ferritin: from DC to 9 GHz'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this