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Biometals. 2003 Mar;16(1):145-60.

Iron and copper homeostasis and intestinal absorption using the Caco2 cell model.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Institute for Molecular Biology and Nutrition, California State University, Fullerton, CA 92834-6866, USA.


Whole body homeostasis can be viewed as the balance between absorption and excretion, which can be regulated independently. Present evidence suggests that for iron, intestinal absorption is the main site for homeostatic regulation, while for copper it is biliary excretion. There are connections between iron and copper in intestinal absorption and transport. The blue copper plasma protein, ceruloplasmin, and its intracellular homologue, hephaestin, play a role in cellular iron release. The studies reviewed here compare effects of Fe(II) and Cu(II) on their uptake and overall transport by monolayers of polarized Caco2 cells, which model intestinal mucosa. In the physiological range of concentrations, depletion of cellular iron or copper (by half) increased uptake of both metal ions. Depletion of iron or copper also enhanced overall transport of iron from the apical to the basal chamber. Copper depletion enhanced overall copper transport, but iron depletion did not. Pretreatment with excess copper also stimulated copper absorption. Plasma ceruloplasmin (added to the basal chamber) failed to enhance basolateral iron release, and Zn(II) failed to compete with Cu(II) for uptake. Neither copper nor iron deficiency altered expression of IREG1 or DMT1 (-IRE form) at the mRNA level. Thus, in the low-normal range of iron and copper availability, intestinal absorption of both metals appears to be positively related to the need for these elements by the whole organism. The two metal ions also influenced each other's transport; but with copper excess, other mechanisms come into play.

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