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Biochem J. 1981 Apr 15; 196(1): 57–64.
PMCID: PMC1162967

Iron and the liver. Acute and long-term effects of iron-loading on hepatic haem metabolism.


We have determined the dose-response curves (100-900 mg of Fe/kg body wt.) and the time course over 84 days for the effects of a single injection of iron-dextran on rat hepatic 5-aminolaevulinate synthetase, cytochrome P-450, iron content, and GSH (reduced glutathione). Porphyrins in liver and urine have also been measured. (1) At 2 days after treatment, a dose of 500 mg of Fe/kg produced a 20-fold increase in iron concentration, which was maintained for 14 days. Total hepatic iron remained constant over 63 days, falling slightly by 84 days. (2) The activity of 5-aminolaevulinate synthetase was maximally increased (6-fold) 12-24 h after iron treatment. By 48 h the activity fell to less than twice the control value and thereafter remained slightly above the control value (1.1-1.5-fold) until 84 days after iron treatment. Liver GSH concentrations were unaffected by iron. Porphyrins in liver and urine were either unchanged or decreased. (3) Hepatic cytochrome P-450 decreased after iron treatment to a minimum (63% of control) at 48 h after iron administration and gradually returned to the control value by 28 days. (4) Iron-dextran potentiated 2 allyl-2-isopropyl-acetamide-induced synthesis of hepatic 5-aminolaevulinate. Potentiation occurred if the drug was given at the same time or 36 h after iron administration, but did not occur if the drug was given 14 or 64 days after iron administration. (5) The results are discussed in relation to proposed mechanisms for the effects of iron on hepatic haem metabolism.

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