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J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 31;278(44):42920-6. Epub 2003 Aug 14.

Identification of a mechanism by which lens epithelial cells limit accumulation of overexpressed ferritin H-chain.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, USA.


The primary cultures of canine lens epithelial cells were transiently transfected with cDNAs for dog ferritin H- or L-chains in order to study differential expression of these chains. By using chain-specific antibodies, we determined that at 48 h after transfection overexpression of L-chain was much higher (9-fold over control) than that of H-chain (1.7-fold). We discovered that differentially transfected cells secrete overexpressed chains as homopolymeric ferritin into the media. Forty-eight hours after transfection accumulation of H-ferritin in the media was much higher (3-fold) than that of L-ferritin. This resulted in lowering of the concentration of H-chain in the cytosol. Co-transfection of cells with both H- and L-chain cDNAs increased the intracellular levels of H-chain and eliminated secretion of H-ferritin to the media. We concluded that lens epithelial cells differentially regulate concentration of both ferritin chains in the cytosol. The overexpressed L-chain accumulated in the cytosol as predominantly homopolymeric L-ferritin. This is in contrast to H-chain, which is removed to the media unless there is an L-chain available to form heteropolymeric ferritin. These data indicate that the inability of cells to more strictly control cytosolic levels of L-chain may augment its accumulation in lenses of humans with hereditary hyperferritinemia cataract syndrome, which is caused by overexpression of L-chain due to mutation in the regulatory element in the untranslated region of the mRNA of the chain.

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