Functional role of endothelial transferrin receptor 1 in iron sensing and homeostasis


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Allison L Fisher, Chia-Yu Wang, Yang Xu, Kole Joachim, Xia Xiao, Sydney Phillips, Gillian A Moschetta, Victor M Alfaro-Magallanes, Jodie L Babitt, Am J Hematol.


Systemic iron homeostasis is regulated by the hepatic hormone hepcidin to balance meeting iron requirements while limiting toxicity from iron excess. Iron-mediated induction of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 6 is a central mechanism for regulating hepcidin production. Liver endothelial cells (LECs) are the main source of endogenous BMP6, but how they sense iron to modulate BMP6 transcription and thereby hepcidin is uncertain. Here, we investigate the role of endothelial cell transferrin receptor 1 (TFR1) in iron uptake, BMP6 regulation, and systemic iron homeostasis using primary LEC cultures and endothelial Tfrc (encoding TFR1) knockout mice. We show that intracellular iron regulates Bmp6 expression in a cell-autonomous manner, and TFR1 mediates iron uptake and Bmp6 expression by holo-transferrin in primary LEC cultures. In addition, endothelial Tfrc knockout mice exhibit altered iron homeostasis compared with littermate controls when fed a limited iron diet, as evidenced by increased liver iron and inappropriately low Bmp6 and hepcidin expression relative to liver iron. However, endothelial Tfrc knockout mice have a similar iron phenotype compared to littermate controls when fed an iron-rich standard diet. Finally, ferritin and non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) are additional sources of iron that mediate Bmp6 induction in primary LEC cultures via TFR1-independent mechanisms. Together, our data demonstrate a minor functional role for endothelial cell TFR1 in iron uptake, BMP6 regulation, and hepatocyte hepcidin regulation under iron limiting conditions, and suggest that ferritin and/or NTBI uptake by other transporters have a dominant role when iron availability is high.

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Dr. Jodie Babitt is a member of the University of Utah Center of Excellence in Hematology (CIHD) and Dr. Allison Fisher is a recipient of a 2022-2023 Postdoctoral Exchange opportunity through U54 DK110858.

Publication: 2023-01-17