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The actin-binding protein profilin 2 is a novel regulator of iron homeostasis

Sara Luscieti, Bruno Galy, Lucia Gutierrez, Michael Reinke, Jorge Couso, Maya Shvartsman, Antonio Di Pascale, Walter Witke, Matthias W. Hentze, Pietro Pilo Boyl and Mayka Sanchez

Key Points

  • Pfn2 mRNA has a functional and conserved IRE in the 3′ untranslated region.

  • Pfn2 knockout mice display an iron phenotype with iron accumulation in specific areas of the brain and depletion of liver iron stores.

Abstract

Cellular iron homeostasis is controlled by the iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) 1 and 2 that bind cis-regulatory iron-responsive elements (IRE) on target messenger RNAs (mRNA). We identified profilin 2 (Pfn2) mRNA, which encodes an actin-binding protein involved in endocytosis and neurotransmitter release, as a novel IRP-interacting transcript, and studied its role in iron metabolism. A combination of electrophoretic mobility shift assay experiments and bioinformatic analyses led to the identification of an atypical and conserved IRE in the 3′ untranslated region of Pfn2 mRNA. Pfn2 mRNA levels were significantly reduced in duodenal samples from mice with intestinal IRP ablation, suggesting that IRPs exert a positive effect on Pfn2 mRNA expression in vivo. Overexpression of Pfn2 in HeLa and Hepa1-6 cells reduced their metabolically active iron pool. Importantly, Pfn2-deficient mice showed iron accumulation in discrete areas of the brain (olfactory bulb, hippocampus, and midbrain) and reduction of the hepatic iron store without anemia. Despite low liver iron levels, hepatic hepcidin expression remained high, likely because of compensatory activation of hepcidin by mild inflammation. Splenic ferroportin was increased probably to sustain hematopoiesis. Overall, our results indicate that Pfn2 expression is controlled by the IRPs in vivo and that Pfn2 contributes to maintaining iron homeostasis in cell lines and mice.

  • Submitted November 30, 2016.
  • Accepted July 30, 2017.
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