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J Biol Chem. 2008 Feb 22;283(8):5168-77. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Zinc deficiency-induced iron accumulation, a consequence of alterations in iron regulatory protein-binding activity, iron transporters, and iron storage proteins.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, California 95616-8669, USA.


One consequence of zinc deficiency is an elevation in cell and tissue iron concentrations. To examine the mechanism(s) underlying this phenomenon, Swiss 3T3 cells were cultured in zinc-deficient (D, 0.5 microM zinc), zinc-supplemented (S, 50 microM zinc), or control (C, 4 microM zinc) media. After 24 h of culture, cells in the D group were characterized by a 50% decrease in intracellular zinc and a 35% increase in intracellular iron relative to cells in the S and C groups. The increase in cellular iron was associated with increased transferrin receptor 1 protein and mRNA levels and increased ferritin light chain expression. The divalent metal transporter 1(+)iron-responsive element isoform mRNA was decreased during zinc deficiency-induced iron accumulation. Examination of zinc-deficient cells revealed increased binding of iron regulatory protein 2 (IRP2) and decreased binding of IRP1 to a consensus iron-responsive element. The increased IRP2-binding activity in zinc-deficient cells coincided with an increased level of IRP2 protein. The accumulation of IRP2 protein was independent of zinc deficiency-induced intracellular nitric oxide production but was attenuated by the addition of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine or ascorbate to the D medium. These data support the concept that zinc deficiency can result in alterations in iron transporter, storage, and regulatory proteins, which facilitate iron accumulation.

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