Recalcati S, Alberghini A, Campanella A, Gianelli U, De Camilli E, Conte D, Cairo G.
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The functions of the iron regulatory proteins (IRP1 and IRP2), which control cellular iron homeostasis are similar but not identical. As an inappropriate up-regulation of total IRP activity has been found in the duodenum and monocytes of patients with hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), we investigated the respective roles of IRP1 and IRP2 in these settings. DESIGN AND METHODS: Specific antibodies were used in RNA-supershift, immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry assays to evaluate IRP1 and IRP2 separately in monocytes, macrophages and duodenum of control subjects, and patients with HH or iron-deficiency anemia. RESULTS: The activity of both IRP1 and IRP2 and the levels of IRP2 were: (i) higher in monocytes and macrophages of HH patients than in those of control subjects; (ii) increased in the duodenal samples of the patients with HH and iron-deficiency anemia. IRP2 levels increased when monocytes differentiated to macrophages. Under all of the examined conditions, IRP2 was induced to a greater extent. In the duodenum of HH and anemic patients, IRP1 was shifted from the aconitase form (present in controls) to the apoform, whereas the IRP1 in monocytes/macrophages was always in the apoform, in both the patients and controls. The RNA-bound fraction of IRP1 was small in all of the samples. Both IRP were expressed more in the villi than in the crypts of the duodenum, with no differences in localization or expression between the patients and controls. INTERPRETATION AND CONCLUSIONS: These findings of the first extensive investigation of the comparative expression of the two IRP in human tissues and blood cells indicate that IRP2 is the major regulator of intracellular iron homeostasis in humans.