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Gastroenterology. 2009 Jan;136(1):341-350.e8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.09.027. Epub 2008 Sep 25.

Suppressive effects of retinoids on iron-induced oxidative stress in the liver.

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Division of Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Department of Genetic Medicine and Regenerative Therapeutics, Graduate School of Medicine, Tottori University, Yonago, Japan.

Erratum in

  • Gastroenterology. 2009 Feb;136(2):729.



We previously reported that impaired retinoid signaling in the liver causes steatohepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Recently, oxidative stress induced by hepatic iron overload has emerged as an important factor for the progression of liver disease in patients with chronic hepatitis C, alcoholic liver disease, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In this study, the relationship between retinoid signaling and iron metabolism in the liver was investigated.


The effect of retinoids on the iron metabolism was examined in HuH7 cells treated with all-trans retinoic acid and acyclic retinoid NIK-333. In in vivo experiments, we used the mice expressing the dominant negative form of retinoic acid receptor alpha gene under the control of albumin enhancer/promoter (RAR-E Tg) and iron-overloaded wild mice fed with retinoid-deficient and retinoid-excess diets.


Hepatic iron accumulation and increased expression of hemojuvelin were observed in RAR-E Tg mouse liver. Retinoid treatment significantly suppressed expression of hemojuvelin and mildly suppressed expression of transferrin receptor type 2 and hepcidin, accompanied by decreased hepatic iron content and iron-induced oxidative stress in vitro and in vivo. Overexpression of hemojuvelin in HuH7 hepatoma cells led to a significant increase in cellular iron content.


Our results suggest that retinoids are involved in hepatic iron metabolism through transcriptional regulation of hemojuvelin. This study demonstrated a novel functional role of retinoids in preventing iron-induced oxidative stress in the liver.

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