Hepcidin is the master regulator of systemic iron homeostasis and its dysregulation is observed in several chronic liver diseases. Unlike the extracellular iron-sensing mechanisms, the intracellular iron-sensing mechanisms in the hepatocytes that lead to hepcidin induction and secretion are incompletely understood. Here, we aimed to understand the direct role of intracellular iron-loading on hepcidin mRNA and peptide secretion using our previously characterised recombinant HepG2 cells that over-express the cell-surface iron-importer protein transferrin receptor-1. Gene expression of hepcidin (HAMP) was determined by real-time PCR. Intracellular iron levels and secreted hepcidin peptide levels were measured by ferrozine assay and immunoassay, respectively. These measurements were compared in the recombinant and wild-type HepG2 cells under basal conditions at 30 min, 2 h, 4 h and 24 h. Data showed that in the recombinant cells, intracellular iron content was higher than wild-type cells at 30 min (3.1-fold, p < 0.01), 2 h (4.6-fold, p < 0.01), 4 h (4.6-fold, p < 0.01) and 24 h (1.9-fold, p < 0.01). Hepcidin (HAMP) mRNA expression was higher than wild-type cells at 30 min (5.9-fold; p = 0.05) and 24 h (6.1-fold; p < 0.03), but at 4 h, the expression was lower than that in wild-type cells (p < 0.05). However, hepcidin secretion levels in the recombinant cells were similar to those in wild-type cells at all time-points, except at 4 h, when the level was lower than wild-type cells (p < 0.01). High intracellular iron in recombinant HepG2 cells did not proportionally increase hepcidin peptide secretion. This suggests a limited role of elevated intracellular iron in hepcidin secretion.
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- Transferrin receptor
- HepG2 cells