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FASEB J. 2007 Feb;21(2):564-76. Epub 2006 Dec 27.

Consequences of expressing mutants of the hemochromatosis gene (HFE) into a human neuronal cell line lacking endogenous HFE.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA 17033-0850, USA.


HFE mutations have traditionally been associated with the iron overload disorder known as hemochromatosis. Recently, it has become clear that the two most common mutations in the HFE gene, H63D and C282Y, may be genetic modifiers for risk of neurodegenerative disorders and cancer, respectively. We developed human neuroblastoma stable cell lines that express either wild-type (WT) or mutant HFE to determine the cellular consequences of the mutant forms of HFE. The presence of the C282Y mutation was associated with relatively higher labile iron pool and iron regulatory protein activity than WT or H63D HFE. Targeted gene arrays revealed that the signal transduction pathway was up-regulated in the C282Y cells. H63D cells had higher levels of lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and lower mitochondrial membrane potential, suggesting higher baseline stress. This cell line was also more vulnerable to exposure to oxidative stress agents and more responsive to iron chelation than the C282Y cells. These data demonstrate that the different mutations in the HFE gene have unique effects on the cells and provide insights into how the different mutations may have different clinical consequences. The results also raise multiple novel questions for future study about the function of the HFE protein.

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