Tmprss6 is a genetic modifier of the Hfe-hemochromatosis phenotype in mice.
The hereditary hemochromatosis protein HFE promotes the expression of hepcidin, a circulating hormone produced by the liver that inhibits dietary iron absorption and macrophage iron release. HFE mutations are associated with impaired hepatic bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/SMAD signaling for hepcidin production. TMPRSS6, a transmembrane serine protease mutated in iron-refractory iron deficiency anemia, inhibits hepcidin expression by dampening BMP/SMAD signaling. In the present study, we used genetic approaches in mice to examine the relationship between Hfe and Tmprss6 in the regulation of systemic iron homeostasis. Heterozygous loss of Tmprss6 in Hfe(-/-) mice reduced systemic iron overload, whereas homozygous loss caused systemic iron deficiency and elevated hepatic expression of hepcidin and other Bmp/Smad target genes. In contrast, neither genetic loss of Hfe nor hepatic Hfe overexpression modulated the hepcidin elevation and systemic iron deficiency of Tmprss6(-/-) mice. These results indicate that genetic loss of Tmprss6 increases Bmp/Smad signaling in an Hfe-independent manner that can restore Bmp/Smad signaling in Hfe(-/-) mice. Furthermore, these results suggest that natural genetic variation in the human ortholog TMPRSS6 might modify the clinical penetrance of HFE-associated hereditary hemochromatosis, raising the possibility that pharmacologic inhibition of TMPRSS6 could attenuate iron loading in this disorder.
Finberg, KE; Whittlesey, RL; Andrews, NC
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