Blood Journal
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Importance of Anemia and Transferrin Levels in the Regulation of Intestinal Iron Absorption in Hypotransferrinemic Mice

  1. K.B. Raja,
  2. D.J. Pountney,
  3. R.J. Simpson, and
  4. T.J. Peters
  1. 1 From the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, King’s College School of Medicine, Denmark Hill, London, UK.


The hypotransferrinemic mouse (trf hpx) is a mutant strain exhibiting transferrin deficiency, marked anemia, hyperabsorption of iron, and elevated hepatic iron stores. We set out to investigate the relative roles of anemia and of transferrin in the malregulation of intestinal iron absorption in these animals. Transfusion of erythrocytes obtained from littermate controls increased hemoglobin levels and reduced reticulocyte counts in recipient animals. Although mucosal to carcass 59Fe transfer was reduced, total duodenal iron uptake was not significantly affected. Iron absorption in homozygotes, in contrast to littermate controls, was not reduced by hyperoxia. Mouse transferrin injections, in the short term, increased delivery of iron to the marrow and raised hemoglobin levels. Although mucosal transfer and total iron uptake were reduced at the higher transferrin doses, total uptake was still higher than in controls. Daily injections of mouse/human transferrin for 3 weeks from weaning, normalized hemoglobin values, and markedly reduced liver iron and intestinal iron absorption values in trf hpxanimals. When such daily-injected mice were left for a week to allow transferrin clearance, iron absorption values were significantly enhanced; hemoglobin or hepatic iron levels were, however, not significantly altered. These data indicate that hyperabsorption of iron in trf hpx mice is not solely because of the anemia; transferrin levels per se do affect iron absorption, possibly via a direct effect on the intestinal mucosa.

  • Submitted November 13, 1998.
  • Accepted June 24, 1999.
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