Cellular expression and regulation of iron transport and storage proteins in genetic haemochromatosis

K.A. Basclain, K.B. Shilkin, G. Withers, William Reed, Gary Jeffrey

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic haemochromatosis is a common iron overload disorder of unknown aetiology. To characterize the defect of iron metabolism responsible for this disease, this study localized and semi-quantified the mRNA and protein expression of transferrin, transferrin receptor and ferritin in the Liver and duodenum of patients with genetic haemochromatosis. Biopsies were obtained from iron-loaded non-cirrhotic patients with genetic haemochromatotic and control patients with normal iron stores. Additional duodenal biopsies were obtained from patients with iron deficiency. Immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization analysis for transferrin, transferrin receptor and ferritin was performed. Hepatic transferrin, transferrin receptor and ferritin protein expression was localized predominantly to hepatocytes and was increased in patients with genetic haemochromatosis when compared with normal controls. Interestingly, hepatic ferritin mRNA expression was not increased in these same patients. In the genetic haemochromatotic duodenum, ferritin mRNA and protein was localized mainly to crypt and villus epithelial cells and the level of expression was decreased compared with normal controls, but similar to iron deficiency;. Duodenal transferrin receptor mRNA and protein levels colocalized to epithelial cells of the crypt and villus were similar to normal controls. Early in the course of genetic haemochromatosis and before the onset of hepatic fibrosis, transferrin receptor-mediated iron uptake by hepatocytes contributes to hepatic iron overload. Increased hepatic ferritin expression suggests this is the major iron storage protein. While persisting duodenal transferrin receptor expression may be a normal response to increased body iron stores in patients with genetic haemochromatosis, decreased duodenal ferritin levels suggest that duodenal mucosa is regulated as if the patient were iron deficient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-634
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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