Iron, the major trace element in the body, is an essential component of many proteins and enzymes. As low-molecular-weight iron is potentially toxic to cells, higher organisms express a number of proteins for the transport and storage of iron. We review our current understanding of the intestinal absorption of iron in the light of recently identified membrane proteins, namely the ferrric reductase, Dcytb, the two iron(II) transport proteins, DMT1 and ferroportin/Ireg1, and hephaestin, the membrane-bound homologue of the ferroxidase ceruloplasmin. Two types of mammalian transferrin receptor, TfR1 and TfR2, are now known to exist. The structure of TfR1 and its role in the process of receptor-mediated cellular uptake of iron are presented together with structural information on the iron storage protein ferritin. Mechanisms for the regulation of levels of TfR1 and ferritin, as well as other proteins involved in iron homeostasis, are discussed. Our current knowledge and understanding of the structure of members of the transferrin family of iron-binding proteins and the nature of the iron-binding centres in transferrins is presented, together with information on the processes of iron-uptake and iron-release by transferrin and a summary of the elements that have been found to bind to transferrins.