Hepcidin, a candidate modifier of the hemochromatosis phenotype in mice.
Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) type I is a disorder of iron metabolism caused by a mutation in the HFE gene. Whereas the prevalence of the mutation is very high, its penetrance seems very low. The goal of our study was to determine whether hepcidin, a recently identified iron-regulatory peptide, could be a genetic modifier contributing to the HH phenotype. In mice, deficiency of either HFE (Hfe(-/-)) or hepcidin (Usf2(-/-)) is associated with the same pattern of iron overload observed in patients with HH. We intercrossed Hfe(-/-) and Usf2(+/-) mice and asked whether hepcidin deficiency increased the iron burden in Hfe(-/-) mice. Our results showed that, indeed, liver iron accumulation was greater in the Hfe(-/-)Usf2(+/-) mice than in mice lacking Hfe alone. This result, in agreement with recent findings in humans, provides a genetic explanation for some variability of the HH phenotype.
Nicolas, G; Andrews, NC; Kahn, A; Vaulont, S
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