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Blood. 2005 Dec 1;106(12):3979-84. Epub 2005 Aug 4.

Presence of the iron exporter ferroportin at the plasma membrane of macrophages is enhanced by iron loading and down-regulated by hepcidin.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U656, Fer et synthèse d'hème, Génétique, Physiologie et Pathologie, Faculté de médecine Xavier Bichat, Paris, France.


Ferroportin, the only mammalian iron exporter identified to date, is highly expressed in duodenal enterocytes and in macrophages. Several lines of evidence indicate that in enterocytes the iron export mediated by ferroportin occurs and is regulated at the basolateral cell surface, where the transporter is strongly expressed. By contrast, in macrophages, ferroportin has been shown in intracellular vesicles. We used a high-affinity antibody to specify the localization of endogenous ferroportin expressed in primary culture of bone marrow-derived macrophages, in both basal and induced conditions. Our observations indicate that ferroportin is expressed in vesicular compartments that can reach the plasma membrane of macrophages. Of importance, when ferroportin expression was up-regulated through iron treatment or erythrophagocytosis, ferroportin expression was strongly enhanced at the plasma membrane of macrophages. Moreover, hepcidin dramatically reduced macrophage ferroportin protein levels. At the subcellular level, hepcidin was shown to induce rapid internalization and degradation of the macrophage iron exporter. These data are consistent with a direct iron export by ferroportin through the plasma membrane of macrophages and strongly support an efficient posttranscriptional down-regulation of ferroportin by hepcidin in these cells.

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