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Endocrinology. 2012 Jul;153(7):3170-8. doi: 10.1210/en.2011-2045. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

17β-Estradiol inhibits iron hormone hepcidin through an estrogen responsive element half-site.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA.


Interaction of estrogen with iron at the systemic level is long suspected, but direct evidence linking the two is limited. In the present study, we examined the effects of 17β-estradiol (E2) on hepcidin, a key negative regulator of iron absorption from the liver. We found that transcription of hepcidin was suppressed by E2 treatment in human liver HuH7 and HepG2 cells, and this down-regulation was blocked by E2 antagonist ICI 182780. Chromatin immunoprecipitation, deletion, and EMSA detected a functional estrogen responsive element half-site that is located between -2474 and -2462 upstream from the start of transcription of the hepcidin gene. After cloning the human hepcidin promoter into the pGL3Luc-Reporter vector, luciferase activity was also down-regulated by E2 treatment in HepG2 cells. E2 reduced hepcidin mRNA in wild-type mice as well as in hemochromatosis Fe gene knockout mice. In summary, our data suggest that hepcidin inhibition by E2 is to increase iron uptake, a mechanism to compensate iron loss during menstruation. This mechanism may also contribute to increased iron stores in oral contraceptive users.

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